Falling for Autumn

Leaves are falling all aroundor they will be. Yes, i’m getting sidetracked with Led Zeppelin’s Ramble On lyrics.

It’s time to maintain your home during the Fall in order to prep your house for winter.  Here are several basic maintenance items to attend to as the days grow shorter and the nights grow longer.

The cost of maintenance is always less than the cost of a claim.

  • Gutters and Downspouts.  The build up of leaves and other debris makes for a constant battle during the fall.  Climb the ladder and clean those gutters!  Grab your hose and run it through the downspout to clear blockages.   Accumulated detritus in your gutters creates a water condition at the edge of your roof. This means that water may cascade directly down from the soffit deep below your foundation.  Next thing you’ll have water seeping up and into your basement.
  • Windows and Doors.  Remove the window air conditioners, replace window screens with storm windows.  Same for screen doors.  Check doorways for loose or broken edging and insulation.
  • Heating Systems: Autumn is a great time to replace the filter for your furnace! The smallest of details could be the cause of the biggest of problems.
  • Landscaping around the base exterior of your house.  Be sure that dirt hasn’t built up at a reverse angle down towards your foundation: rake the dirt so that it angles downward and away from your foundation.  This helps to prevent water buildup against the foundation which then seeps down and into your basement.

Please call to inquire how water accumulation in your home may or may not be covered under your homeowner’s insurance policy. If your house “floods”, you will want to know how it affects your wallet.

Please check out our other blogs on claim prevention tips. You can reach us by calling 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329 for a free, no-obligation annual review.

Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

Fire Hazards in Your House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

Walk Through Your House Like a Claims Adjustor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your health and financial health depend on it. Call us at 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329 for a free, no-obligation annual review.
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*Flood insurance is always specifically excluded from homeowners. Please consult with your agent if you are interested in flood insurance.

Summer Preparedness Part 2: Your Household

Bags are packed; the car is loaded. And away we go!
What fun we’ll have on our vacation.

Pump the brakes!

We don’t want to be a party-pooper, but we want to remind you that while your home is unattended, if something goes wrong while you’re away, you’ll be in for an unpleasant surprise upon your return.

Prepare your house while preparing for vacation.  Create a checklist and check off these important items before you leave the house.

Plumbing
It’s always useful when doing a plumbing inspection to run all the faucets in your home at the same time.  Flush all the toilets and work your way from the bottom (basement) of your house up to the top floor(s) checking pipes and surrounding areas. 

Close valves and turn off water supplies to the entire house or to your least-used pipes, such as to the washing machine and water heater.

Consider also turning your water heater to “low” or “vacation” mode. 
Why burn up fuel heating water you’re not using while you’re away from home? Check drains for clear drainage to prevent any backups from unexpected water surges, especially your storm drains.

A quick inspection of all pipes and plumbing systems alerts you to any potential problems.  Do a quick check for leaks, the kind of small leaks you might be missing during your normal day-to-day living, but the kind of small leak that could become a big leak while you’re away.

Electrical
Unplug extension cords.  Unplug appliances. 

Storms can cause electrical surges that can damage your connected appliances, or worse, cause a fire.  Also, look for loose wall plates, loose plugs or any other potential hazard that could create an electrical event and maybe a fire.

Air quality 
How’s the air in your home?  Is there any chance that dampness in the air could create a mold condition while you’re away? Are all the windows closed? 

If you have a dehumidifier, set it up in strategic locations around the house in the weeks before your vacation.

Thermostat
Set the thermostat to a temperature, hot or cold depending on time of year, that doesn’t use unnecessary energy while you’re away.

Technology 
There are smart home devices including security units you can quickly and easily install to help protect your home from interior and exterior threats while you’re away.

Smart locks, home monitoring systems, and apps for your smartphones that allow you to monitor your home from the beach hundreds of miles away are all worthy investments for your holiday peace of mind.

Mail
With a quick visit to your local post office to fill out of a simple form, your mail is held by the Postal Carrier until after your return from vacation.  If you get newspaper delivery, notify your carrier of your pending holiday to hold deliveries while you’re away. Piles of mail and newspaper deliveries attracts vagrants and burglars.

When was the last time you reviewed your insurance? Don’t wait until it’s too late. Call now at 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329 for a free, no-obligation annual review. Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

The Two Most Effective Steps When You File A Claim

Your Insurance is in place to protect you from risks that may affect your wealth and your health.  When an incident occurs, you’ll want to file your claim in order to receive payment for your loss as quickly and efficiently as possible. 

Luckily, there are two easy steps to ensure a smooth claim process.  Best news of all, you can manage these two easy suggestions in a short time, maybe even while you’re binge watching whatever is the latest and greatest on Netflix. 

#1: Paperwork

Gather your insurance policies to an easy-to-find (and easy to remember) location.  You might want to consider scanning your policies to PDFs and saving those on your Smartphone, home computer, or Cloud Storage. 

If you’re saving paper or scanning to PDF, be mindful with how you label each document.  Using the Insurance Carrier’s name along with the purpose of the policy is helpful.  For example, “ABC INSURANCE Homeowners Policy.” 

Use different color post-it notes strategically placed on each paper document to easily flip through multiple policies. If you’re storing PDFs on a computer or Cloud drive, create different folders for each policy and be sure to “rename” each PDF for easy search.  In a pinch you’ll want to quickly locate “XYZ MUTUAL INSURANCE 2017 PONTIAC.”

#2: Photos

Smartphones make it easy to snap photos of your belongings around your home or to grab a quick photo of damage to your vehicle after an incident. Be sure to have the date stamp feature enabled.

In your home, while running your vacuum around or changing the bed linens, snap photos in each room where you have valuable belongings.  Take a photo of the entire room, too, with different angles. Capture clear, up close photos of individual valuables. 

Upload your photos and save to your home computer or Cloud Storage. Or both.

We’d be honored to spend a few minutes with you to discuss how to organize your files, review to see if your valuables are insured properly or to prepare the step-by-step of the “what to do” and “what not to do” after a claim.

When you’re organized in advance, your claim can be processed efficiently. This gets you paid faster in order to begin the repairs.

You can call us now for a free educational moment or to review your existing insurance policies to be sure you’re covered for every eventuality. Call now at 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329. Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

3 Things Your Homeowners Insurance Doesn’t Cover. Number 3 is a DOOZY!

We encourage people to conduct an annual review of their insurance policies.  Too often, when consumers purchase insurance, they approach the transaction with an eye towards prompt resolution and a focus on price.  This formula of speed+money is a formula for failure in the event of a future claim.

The reason is simple.  A carelessly prepared insurance policy, one prepared in the heat of the customer’s desire for a quick resolution and demand for lowest price could result in a “skeleton” policy that may not properly cover the consumer for a catastrophic eventuality. 

The quality insurance agent, interested in protecting the consumer with the best possible risk coverages, and in protecting their own professional reputation, will take the time to educate the consumer and provide a comprehensive insurance policy.

You may be surprised to discover that there are 3 items, indicated below, that may not be covered by your current Homeowners Insurance Policy.  Spoiler alert, #3 may surprise you!  We’re happy to assist you with a comprehensive, careful, review of all of your insurance needs.  And, education is a key element to how we’ll proceed with assisting you to fully understand risks you can protect for with the right insurance.

#1: Sewer Backup.  Whether your home is connected to a public sewer or you have a septic system, a backup due to a blockage, storm-surge, or other calamity, can damage electrical systems, furniture, floors, and precious possessions. Standard homeowners insurance policies may not cover you at all for such damage or may only provide very limited coverage.  You can upgrade to more comprehensive insurance to include special coverage for sewer backup.

#2: Precious Collectibles.  Basic insurance policies may not cover your stellar baseball card or antique cookie jar collections.  If the policy does cover your collection, the limit of coverage may be far below the actual value of your collection.  When you review your insurance, be sure to mention your collection and an assessment of its value.  To be sure, consider obtaining an independent appraisal of your collection to include that with your upgraded, comprehensive Homeowners Insurance policy. 

#3: Termite infestation and damage.  Not covered by a standard, basic policy. Period.  Depending on where you live, especially in the Northeast of the United States, termites and the damage they cause are a real and impending menace.  Homeowners often realize there’s an infestation long after the termite colony has ensconced itself within the wooden borders and interior of your home.  The cost of treating and removing the infestation, along with the costs of repairing the damage, can easily escalate.  Be sure to address these concerns in your annual review.  Consider also contracting with a local exterminating company to inspect your home annually for these nasty pests.

Insurance involves assessing a future, unknown risk.  That risk could affect your health and/or your wealth.  A carefully prepared insurance policy protects you for a comprehensive array of possible risks.  But in the rush to purchase the insurance, the consumer shops without the appropriate due diligence.  And, in the interest of making the sale, an insurance agent may simply provide the basics of a policy to appease the consumer’s request for speed and low price. 

Call us today for your free annual insurance review.  We’re thrilled to spend the time with you to find you the best policy that comprehensively protects your health and your wealth at an affordable price!

Call now at 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329. Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

What Happens In The Event of a Water Leak in Your Condo?

If you own a Condominium (Condo), you may have equipment both inside and outside your unit for which you are responsible. In a closet inside your unit would be your water tank. There is also an HVAC unit that may be just outside your unit, to heat and cool your home.  Most of the time, you ignore these two quiet workhorses that keep you in comfort all year round.

Shockingly, every once in a while, and sometimes suddenly, the equipment may fail and need repair.  Most often and most inconveniently, the HVAC will fail when the temperatures outside are the hottest or coldest, depending on the time of the year. Thus, only your comfort is compromised.

However, every once in a while, these machines break down and leak.  With water. Lots of water.

If your HVAC unit is outside your Condo, this may not be as terrible of an event, unless you own a Townhouse and the unit is in the basement and there’s a danger of the water seeping into your basement.

But it can be really bad if you’re on an upper floor and one or several of your Condo neighbors lives below you.  Water loves to follow the powerful attraction of gravity: downward. Downward towards your neighbors’ Condo unit!

Yes, your first step is to call the emergency number for your equipment repair tech. If you’re not sure, call the property manager so they can dispatch someone immediately to mitigate the damage. If the property manager is not available, call your local insurance agent who will have access to reputable Restoration Services companies. They all have emergency lines so you’re covered seven days a week.

In the event of a leak which could lead to a potential claim, mitigating the loss is critical and required under your insurance contract. You’ll want the restoration company onsite as quickly as possible to dry out all the water and repair the water damage.  Do not forget to take photos of the damage before the restoration company arrives. It’s key that you document the extent of the damage at the time of the event. This also mitigates any confusion or misunderstanding of the extent of the loss when the claim is settled. The key word here is “mitigate”.  

You don’t want to be caught by surprise when a leak happens all over your downstairs neighbors’ precious Star Wars toy collection.  Review your current insurance policy now to be 100% sure you have all the appropriate coverages before it’s too late. The review is free of charge. Call us now at 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329. Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

Home Inspection for Your Condominium Purchase

Condominium Buyers often ask:

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

The answer is a definitive YES!

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

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

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

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

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

Your Monthly Home Maintenance Checklist

As a homeowner, it can be a struggle to know exactly what should be on your to-do list to keep everything in your house running smoothly. There are some things that need to be done annually, quarterly, twice yearly, as needed… the list goes on.

If you have trouble keeping track of all these necessary tasks, consider using a task manager or even an adult chore chart to keep yourself organized. Many of these are available, so you only need to try a few and find what works best for you. Some people prefer paper lists, while others like online to do list organizers like todoist or any.do.

Today, we want to focus on the things that you should be checking or doing in your home every month. This list will be different for every home, but the items below are some that will be needed by most Massachusetts homeowners. You can tailor your list as needed. And remember, these tasks may seem like (and let’s face it – they are) chores, but

First, check your home’s HVAC filters. Some people will recommend you change the filters monthly, but we find that a monthly inspection will often do the trick. Look at the filter and see if you’ve used it enough to warrant installing a new one. Homes without pets and without residents with allergies may only need to change the filter every month or two.

Do you have a disposal in your kitchen sink? Every month, clean it by grinding up a few vinegar ice cubes (fill an ice tray with vinegar and let freeze – one tray of cubes will be enough for a few months’ worth of cleanings). The vinegar will freshen your disposal, and ice sharpens the blades!

In addition to cleaning your sink’s disposal, consider cleaning the filter on your range hood. Depending on how often you use the vent, these can get greasy quickly. Soak the filter in a degreaser mixed with hot water, and rinse – it’s that easy!

Do you have a fire extinguisher in your kitchen? Hopefully you never need to use it, but you should check monthly to ensure that the gauge shows that the internal pressure is in the right range, as well as that it is easily accessible in case there is an emergency and you need to grab it in a hurry.

Depending on the composition of the water in your home, your sink’s aerators and your shower heads may need to be cleaned often in order to ensure proper pressure and flow. There are plenty of products on the market that can help with those pesky mineral deposits and buildup, but first try plain white vinegar – you might find that it does the trick without the need for expensive and harmful chemicals.

About once a month, when you have the vacuum out for your normal cleaning routine, take a few extra minutes and clean a few more things around your home. This should include any dust or debris around your HVAC system, as well as the vents connected to the system. If you’re feeling extra ambitious, slide your fridge out from its usual spot (or open the bottom, depending on your model) and give the coils a dusting to keep the system running efficiently.

In addition to these monthly home maintenance tasks, you need to ensure that you are performing less frequent tasks – for example, those that need to be done seasonally. Here on vargasinsurance.com, we often post blogs recommending seasonal maintenance tasks, so stay tuned for our advice on some of the maintenance that your home needs in order to run smoothly. We post seasonal tips all year long, like Surviving Winter in Your Boston Home, Spring Cleaning Tips that Everyone Should Know, Summer Tips for Small Business Owners, and Fall Home Maintenance Tasks, just to highlight a few examples.

Do you ever feel like some of these maintenance tasks are too hard or too time consuming to complete properly? Don’t worry – there are plenty of handymen and maintenance professionals that can help you with any tasks that you need help completing. As always, the agents at Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency have connections in the community and can connect you to the perfect person for the job. For our recommendation, just contact an agent and ask for a referral.

While it may be an annual home maintenance task, checking your Boston home insurance policy is a critical part of making sure that your home is protected against several types of catastrophes. When was the last time you talked to an insurance agent about whether you have the right levels of coverage? If it’s been more than a year, call 617-298-0655 and speak to a Vargas and Vargas Insurance agent about your home protection. We are always available to give insurance advice and free Massachusetts insurance quotes, so contact us today.

Recap: Fall Home Maintenance

“A fallen leaf is nothing more than a summer’s wave goodbye.” – Unknown

Is your home ready for the winter? Many of us here at the Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency are working through our Fall home maintenance checklists and thought that we would share some of the tasks that we are undertaking. Here are just a few examples from our longer post:

  • Trim trees and shrubs, taking care to get rid of anything that could cause a problem when weighted down with snow and ice in the coming months.
  • After the leaves fall, clean gutters and drains so that melting snow and ice can flow freely.
  • Exterior repairs should be taken care of as soon as possible, before everything is blanketed and access to these areas is harder.
  • You will soon need to use your home’s heating system, so now is the time to make sure it is working and ready for the coming temperatures. Hire a professional for a check now – they will soon be very busy!
  • Check to ensure that you have all the gear you will need for winter. Now is the time to replace that old shovel, or to upgrade the ice scraper in your vehicle.

Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency is here to help with one more item on your Fall home maintenance checklist: making sure that your insurance policies are ready for Winter claims! Call 617-298-0655 for a free consultation and a home insurance checkup from the professionals here at Vargas and Vargas Insurance.