These Home Improvement Projects Can Raise and Lower Your Insurance Rates

If you’re updating your home, you may have to make updates to your home insurance policy, as well. When you increase the value of your home, such as by adding square footage or doing a major bathroom renovation, you need to make sure you don’t end up underinsured. Your current policy was designed to cover the cost of rebuilding, and it needs to reflect your home’s current value accurately.

Also, some home improvement projects can actually lower your premiums if they make you less likely to file a claim. By not upgrading your policy, you could miss out on these substantial savings.

Women setting the alarm on her home security system

Take a look at some home upgrades that will require modifying your insurance policy.

Home Improvement Projects That Increase the Value of Your Home

If you purchased your policy when you had laminate countertops and decided to upgrade to marble and high-end appliances, you added tens of thousands of dollars to your home’s value. But, if you don’t inform your insurance company, you’re left in a very vulnerable position if the worst happens and you need to file a claim. Purchasing more coverage protects the value of your home and ensures you get an adequate payout to replace any covered damage. The same is true for adding livable square footage by renovating a basement or building an addition.

If you add a pool, updating your insurance becomes crucial: swimming pools are a potential hazard. To have peace of mind, consider adding liability insurance included in your policy.

Upgrades That Can Lower Your Premiums

Your home insurance policy isn’t just calculated based on your home’s value. It also considers how likely you are to file a claim. Getting a new roof can help you qualify for a lower rate, especially if you have an older home. Roof damage from rain and snow is one of the biggest reasons that homeowners file a claim, and your roof is now better able to withstand extreme weather.

Upgrades to your security, such as a burglar alarm, are another potential investment that can lower your rate. Modernizing older heating, plumbing, or electrical systems can result in a discount if there’s less risk of fire or water damage.  

At Vargas & Vargas Insurance, we’ll be glad to give you detailed guidance about the right policy for your current home’s value.   

Invite Your Neighbors to The Party

Do you know the old advice about throwing a party when you’re the new kid in town?  Yes, it’s housewarming time and you’re so happy and you invite all your friends over to celebrate.  But you don’t want to annoy your new neighbors, do you?  It’s no good getting on the bad side of your neighbors when you’re the newbie on the street/floor.

The old advice about just such a moment is to invite those very same neighbors! That’s right, don’t just invite your friends, invite the neighbors, the people who aren’t your friends.  (Hopefully some day they will be, but that’s another story altogether)

The idea behind this wisdom is that, if your party gets a little loud, your neighbors can’t possibly complain to you by banging on your door, or, worse, by calling the police.  How can they complain about your party when you invited them in the first place?  They could easily have accepted your invitation, and could just as easily be enjoying themselves with all the other revelers and getting to know you, their new neighbor too.

Take that advice a step further when you’re going to get some serious construction or landscaping work done on your home. Invite the neighbors, in a manner of speaking.  

Let’s say you hired a tree company to come in and remove several large trees.  You know the crew is going to arrive early in the morning.  And you know it’s going to get loud out there very quickly, between chainsaws, falling trees, workers yelling, and, oh, the wood chipper blasting!

Why leave it to chance that your neighbors are going to be annoyed by this early morning noise?  Let them know in advance about the work, either with a notecard you leave on their door, or a nice letter in the mail, or by knocking on the door, and introducing yourself.  You might even invite them to stop by for a cup of coffee to watch the trees come down!

There’s a lot to be said about tranquility in your neighborhood, and this is a great way to promote that, and make some new friends in the process.  So, when you’re getting major repair work or landscaping work done at your house, invite the neighbors!

When was the last time you reviewed your insurance portfolio. Please schedule a call with us to discuss your policies.

Keep Your Homeowner Policy Safe

Dangers are abound in even the simplest of repair situations, so steer clear of the contractor’s work zone. 

When you hire the right contractor to do repairs or renovations or maintenance at your home, you want to maintain a respectful distance from their work area.

The contractor has been trained and, through long experience, knows how to maintain a safe work zone for themselves.  When you intrude across the boundaries of that zone, you introduce an unexpected variable in the contractors work process.

And that is when it can get messy. Be prudent when you’re hiring a contractor. How?

Request evidence of insurance. 

Speaking of safety and experience, don’t forget to collect the necessary certificates of insurance from your contractors. If anything happens on your property, you don’t want to give anyone any reason to abnegate responsibility to seek remedy for their injuries under YOUR homeowners insurance policy. 

Yes, you read that right.

If your state doesn’t require Workers Compensation coverage, the Homeowners policy could apply to cover lawsuits filed by an injured worker or to pay for medical expenses incurred if they don’t file a lawsuit. 

While the work area may appear to you to be perfectly safe, it is after all, your house and you know your house better than anyone, you still cannot anticipate hazards known all too well to the contractor through their possible training and experience. 

Respect the contractors’ work zone and, if you have a coffee or other tasty treats to share, let the contractor know where you’ve placed it easily accessible in your kitchen.  Then the contractor can enter the work zone and you can be comfortable the premises are safe.

Please schedule a call with us to discuss the very complicated process of your homeowners policy being exposed compared to the contractors’ workers compensation policy.

You want to ensure that your homeowners policy is updated and accurate to protect you in the event hired workers do not provide proof of insurance.

DIY Has Its Limits

Our society has become enthralled with the concept of “do it yourself” or “DIY.”  So much so that entire industries have grown up around the idea that anyone, anywhere, with access to tools, materials and knowledge, can do just about anything they set their mind to.

This DIY mentality extends to our home.  Repairs, renovations and other home improvement projects abound in this mindset. 

The traditional craft of repair and renovation has been upended with this modern consumer concept.  Imagine you’re an electrician and you’ve entered a Big Box Home Hardware store.  As you walk down the aisle filled from floor to ceiling with electrical supplies of all types, you see a person standing in front of a display of electrical outlets.  This person clearly is not an electrician, and clearly is struggling with the selection of the appropriate outlet which you’re pretty sure they’re going to attempt to install themselves. 

Imagine the horror in your mind as that electrician thinking of the potential visit to the Emergency Room for that person when the wrong wire gets crossed.

And, yet, these traditional industries still thrive.  The reason?  No amount of online videos, tutorials or DIY books can replace the wisdom that comes from specializing in a task and learning the “tricks of the trade from experienced professionals.

If you have trees on your property, it’s your responsibility to think about the maintenance of those trees to protect your home in the event of a severe storm that could topple in close proximity to your house. 

If you’re thinking about trimming, or even taking down trees for that maintenance and protection. Should you do it yourself? 

The best way to answer the question is to watch a professional tree-trimming crew in action.  You’re likely to very quickly realize that such work…taking down or trimming a tree…is best left in the hands of the experienced professionals. 

Those “tricks of the trade” that come from the traditions and wisdom handed down in the craft become very quickly obvious as you watch the crew scale up a tree and easily slice away branches and limbs.  And then when they have to take down an entire tree, the process seems at once intricate and yet elegantly simple.

Yes, sometimes it’s really best to not do it yourself and to leave it to the professional.

One of the most FAQs we receive is when a tree falls on your property but doesn’t hit your house or any physical structure, there is no insurance coverage to pay for the removal of the tree.

Call us for any recommendations you may need to help with your home improvement projects.

Please read our other blogs related to home maintenance projects.

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.

Home Security Overview

Alarms, cameras, door and window locks, passwords. 

That should cover everything you need to remember this Autumn as you perform your twice annual security review!

  1. Alarms.  Is your alarm system up to date with the latest equipment?  Check with your alarm provider to be sure your technology is up to date.  Then conduct a survey to be sure that all contact points for your alarm system are secure with no loose contact plates or wiring.   What about power sources for your alarm system?   Be sure that outlets that provide power to your alarm appliances aren’t overloaded with other appliances.
  2. Cameras.  When did you last update the firmware for your cameras?  Even if you’ve set up devices for automatic updates, you should check to be sure that updates have occurred.  Keep hackers out of your systems with the latest software/firmware updates.   How are the sight lines for your cameras?  Have storms or critters moved cameras out of alignment?  Are those lenses clean and intact?  Do a visual inspection up close of each camera to make sure there is no damage to the lenses our housing.  Are the mounting screws secure?
  3. Door and Window Locks.  Check for loose strike plates, loose screws.  Are the locks easy to close and open?  A tiny dash of a lubricant might be necessary to ensure smooth lock operation.  Do your window sashes line up to make the locking secure and firm?  If you’re using electronic locks have you updated the passwords?  Is the power to such locks secure?
  4. Passwords.  We cannot say enough about using very secure passwords and about changing passwords frequently.  Thankfully many smartphone manufacturers and other third party providers are creating secure password storage apps for your phones.  Be sure to back up your passwords in writing somewhere in your home, in a book where you won’t forget it and where it’s unlikely that an intruder would look there to find your passwords.  Yes, written backup.  You read that correctly.

When you conduct a home security review you should also have a conversation with your Independent Insurance Agent to ensure your insurance policy reflects new security measures you’ve installed in your home. This could help to save you money on your insurance premiums.

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.

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.
Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

*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.