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.

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: Overlooked Home Maintenance Tasks

“Light is the task where many share the toil.” – Homer

Last week, we posted a blog for homeowners detailing several of the most-forgotten home maintenance tasks. Were you able to add any of these to your ‘to-do’ list? The most ambitious of you may have already checked a few items off! To refresh those who may have missed the prior post, here are just a few of the tasks that you need to make sure get done around your home:

  • Clean your refrigerator coils and drip pan.
  • Flush your water heater.
  • Clean your dryer’s exhaust tube of lint and other debris.
  • Have your fireplace and chimney cleaned annually.
  • Lubricate your automatic garage door opener.
  • Change the filter of your A/C and heater.
  • Remove debris that has collected in your gutters.
  • Trim the trees and other greenery on your property.

Completing these tasks will ensure that your home is properly maintained, and many will even help you avoid having to file a claim on your Boston home insurance policy. That being said, however, if you do ever need to file an insurance claim, the Vargas and Vargas Insurance team is here for you! Just call our Stoughton or Dorchester office at 617-298-0655 to speak to a Massachusetts insurance agent that can help you with all of your insurance needs.

10 Essential (and Easy to Forget) Home Maintenance Tasks

Owning a home is the “Great American Dream,” but sometimes homeowners get a little tired of all of the maintenance that comes with the territory of ownership. There is a lot to remember… since a home has so many parts, it’s hard to keep them all running simultaneously!

You’re juggling a lot, so here are a few reminders of items that may need a little bit of TLC. They are easy to forget but shouldn’t be neglected. Make sure these all get added to your DIY maintenance schedule, or call a Massachusetts professional in order to remove them from your ‘honey-do’ list:

  1. Refrigerator: There’s more to cleaning your refrigerator than throwing out spoiled food. Occasionally, you will need to clean the coils – these are what helps keep the refrigerator cold and having them covered in dust will make your appliance less efficient. Also clean out the drip pan, which is often on the bottom of the unit.
  2. Water Heater: As you use your water heater, sediment will sometimes flow into the tank. This sediment reduces the heater’s efficiency and shortens its lifespan. To get the sediment out, you will need to empty the tank, which is a job that needs to be done with extreme care in order to avoid contact with scalding hot water. Most people opt to let a professional handle this annual task.
  3. Kitchen and Bathroom Grout: Most people have grout somewhere in their kitchen or bathroom. Did you know, though, that this grout needs to be resealed occasionally? Most recommend an annual reseal in order to make sure that grout stays waterproof.
  4. Clothes Dryer: Everyone that uses a clothes dryer knows that you have to remove the lint from the lint trap after every load. It is also important to know that you need to give the lint screen a thorough cleaning once in a while – otherwise residue from fabric softener and dryer sheets will cause airflow to be blocked within the unit. You can use any dish soap meant to remove grease, and make sure that the screen dries thoroughly before replacing it.
  5. Chimney: Here in Massachusetts, many homes come with a fireplace and chimney. If this describes your home, make sure that you have your chimney professionally cleaned every year, especially if you use it. This will help you avoid the threat of a chimney fire.
  6. Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors: This home maintenance tip is one that we echo often here at Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency. Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors twice a year. It is critical to know that they will work as intended if there is ever a problem and can give your family critical moments to evacuate the property if there is a fire or gas leak.
  7. Garage Door: To extend the life of your automatic garage door opener, you should plan to lubricate it annually. This includes the chain and overhead springs. Cracked or warped weather stripping on the bottom of the door should be replaced, as should cracked or warped roller wheels.
  8. Air Conditioner and Heaters: It is critical that your heater and air conditioner get regular maintenance visits from an HVAC specialist. They will check the system to ensure that it is running efficiently and that there are no major issues looming. You should also make sure that the filter on these units is changed according to the specialist’s instructions (often quarterly) or more often if you suffer from seasonal allergies.
  9. Gutters: It’s a dirty job, but someone has got to do it! Gutters should be cleaned twice a year (in the spring and fall, typically) to ensure that debris doesn’t collect. If you let leaves, pine cones, etc. clog your gutters, they can get wet and very heavy. This would mean gutters could tear away from your home and/or cause damage to your exterior walls. Overflowing gutters also don’t drain properly, which can cause water to seep into your home or damage your foundation.
  10. Front and Back Yard: Occasionally, you will need to give your greenery some “TLC” – ensure that all trees are looked at by a professional. They will be able to tell you if any branches (or entire trees) pose a falling threat. Have those potential problems dealt with quickly, since they could otherwise break and damage something (or hurt someone) in the next major storm to roll through.

While these tasks are easy to overlook, some of them are critical in order to assure that your home is as safe as possible for yourself and your loved ones. You may choose to do them yourself, but more complicated tasks may require the aid of a professional. For a referral to complete any of these jobs, simply call your favorite local independent insurance agency – we will be happy to point you in the direction of a knowledgeable and courteous workman.

If you do ever have a problem in your home, call Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency – we can help you file a claim on your Massachusetts home insurance and get you back to normal as soon as possible.