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.

Storm Damage Tips From Vargas & Vargas Insurance

This weekend’s Nor’easter, which is not a storm named by the National Weather Service, produced widespread damage including downed trees, sump pump failures, and power outages. The Vargas & Vargas Insurance team handled dozens of calls throughout the entire weekend and remains available at this time to assist you.

We understand there is great difficulty locating tree removal services and roofers to patch or tarp roof openings. We also note that finding generators and or sump pumps to remove water from basements is a challenge at this time.

Below are some tips should you have suffered any damage:

Tree damage: If there is tree damage to a building or home the first order of business is to ensure everyone’s physical safety. Once that has been completed, contact a licensed tree removal company. Currently, tree removal companies are focusing on calls involving severe damage. We suggest a number of companies be contacted to secure competitive quotes and, if necessary, to get on waiting lists for assistance.

Sump pump failure: Be extremely mindful of entering a flooded basement as water that has risen to certain levels may have caused an electrical short creating a dangerous situation. Elevating personal belongings and removing the water as soon as possible is important. Pumps and generators are in high demand currently and most local hardware and big box home improvement stores are out of stock. Contacting stores within a reasonable driving distance may be good option.

Roof damage: Much like tree removal services, licensed roofers are in high demand after a storm of this size. While likely well-meaning, this will cause individuals without the necessary level of expertise to offer assistance. As we have suggested in the past, please do not let anyone on your roof that you did not contact directly, and please be sure those that do provide help are appropriately licensed and insured.While these are the most common types of losses after a storm of this nature, we recognize these are not the only issues currently being experienced. Please contact Vargas & Vargas Insurance with any questions or concerns you may have.

To report a loss, you can contact us by telephone (617-298-0655), email(customerservice@vargasinsurance.com)
or text (617-409-0329).

If you suffer an emergency that cannot wait until we are open for business, please contact our after-hours claim telephone number  617-322-5289. 

Also, you may find our blog titled, “Home insurance, should you file a claim”, interesting to read, can read it by clicking here.

Sincerely,Carlos

Keep Your Bathroom Sparkling and New

We all want to keep our homes clean, and this is especially true of one room: the bathroom. It seems to, at times, be a haven for dirt and grime. Do you ever feel like no matter how much you scrub, your bathrooms get dirty again in a day or two? Here are a few cleaning tips that can help you keep your bathroom looking sparkling and new for more than just a few minutes at a time:

  • For hard to reach places, have a spare toothbrush dedicated to cleaning. Then you won’t have to worry about getting into nooks and crannies with the corner of a rag.
  • If you’re someone who would prefer to clean with natural products instead of harsher chemicals, don’t dismiss the power of a baking soda and vinegar paste – it can be used on tubs, showers, toilets, and more!
  • Cleaning is much easier in the bathroom if everything is organized and out of the way. Instead of piling everything on the countertops, hang shelving or a wall cabinet to hold your odds and ends. Keep everything in its place, and you won’t have to reorganize every time you want to wipe down.

Once your home is clean and fresh, make sure that it is fully protected with a home insurance or renters insurance policy from the Massachusetts insurance experts at Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency. One quick call to 617-298-0655 can get you the protection and confidence that you deserve. And if you combine your home and auto insurance, you can save money on both insurance policies – just call today for a free quote.

Flooding: What to Do Before, During, and After

You never know when a flood will strike. Hurricanes often bring flooding, and flash floods can happen at any time. Make sure that you’re prepared for the chance of a sudden flood, know how to stay safe during the event, and know how to deal with the fallout of a flood with these tips:

  • Before – Make sure that you have a well-stocked emergency kit and a family disaster plan. When a flood is forecast, keep up with the weather news. If you have time, you may choose to move valuables and hazardous materials to higher levels of your home, and disconnect electrical appliances (but only do this if it is safe!). Depending on the severity of the forecasted flooding, you may want to evacuate the area.
  • During – Continue to monitor news about the flood. Once the flooding starts, don’t travel unless you have to, and never drive on flooded roads. If you are advised to evacuate, do so in a safe and timely manner. In short, find high ground and stay there until you are told by officials that it is safe to leave.
  • After – Do not enter any building that is still flooded. If necessary, have your home checked for structural damage by a professional before you enter. Homes that have been affected by floods are sometimes unsafe – when in doubt, ask for professional assistance. Make sure that you call your Massachusetts insurance provider right away to start the claim process.

You may be surprised to learn that your Massachusetts home insurance, condo insurance, or renter’s insurance doesn’t cover flooding. For that, you need a special flood insurance policy or rider. Call Vargas and Vargas Insurance at 617-298-0655 today to find out how affordable this critical coverage is

Preparing to Sell Your Home

If you’re thinking of leaving the Boston area, or if you’re just upgrading to a new home, you need to get your home ready for market. With the help of a top notch real estate professional, you can have your home ready to show off to potential buyers in no time. To start preparing a little early, use the following Realtor-approved tips:

  • Curb appeal is crucial – make sure that your lawn is manicured, and touch up paint if necessary. Outdoor furniture and windows should be clean, and shrubbery and flowers should be pruned.
  • You want to make sure that your home feels spacious, so put away clutter. If you’re planning on moving, you can start packing away anything that you won’t need in the near future so that your home feels roomier.
  • Are there any repairs that will need to be done before your home sells? Get a start on those now – some sellers won’t like the idea of buying a home that needs repairs. For an idea of what needs to be done, ask for the help of a licensed home inspector.
  • When buyers tour your home, they will need to be able to envision living there. Help this process by depersonalizing the space – remove family photos, toys, and pet items from view.

And remember, when you do sell your home, talk to your Vargas and Vargas Insurance agent about how to cancel or transfer your existing Massachusetts home insurance policy. We are happy to answer any and all of your questions, and we will work hard to make the home insurance process as easy as possible for you and your family.

Keep Your Patio Furniture Looking New

Has your patio furniture come out of storage for the summer? Being able to sit outside and enjoy the weather is one of the best parts of the summer months, and that is best done on a fabulous patio set. If you have new outdoor furniture, make sure that it looks fresh year after year with these tips:

  • You will probably want to give your furniture a good thorough cleaning when it comes either out of storage or home from the store. Don’t be afraid to rent a high-pressure cleaning tool, as long as your furniture’s cleaning guide says it is ok.
  • A layer of dirt and debris may seem like nothing to worry about, but over time this grime may eat away at your furniture’s finish and make it dull. Cover your patio set when not in use to avoid frequent cleanings, as well as the harsh rays of the sun.
  • Take care of rust as soon as you notice it. Rust will spread if ignored, so use these tips to help with small spots of rust that you see before they have the chance to overtake the set.
  • When the weather gets colder and the season for patio furniture is over, find a warm and dry place to store your set away from the elements.

Want to go the extra mile to protect your patio set? Call Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency at 617-298-0655 and make sure that your Massachusetts home insurance policy has an adequate amount of coverage for all of your furniture and other belongings.

Building Permits for Residential Renovations

They say that the only constant in life is change, and I tend to agree. If you’re in the mood for a change in your life, why not make an improvement to your home? A home renovation can be a great way to improve the value of your house, as well as give you a fresh new take on your living space.

If you want to make a modification to your home, you will probably need a permit. The types of projects that almost always require a permit include, but are not limited to:

  • Electrical Updates
  • Changes to sewer or plumbing
  • Mechanical Improvements
  • Alterations to the roofline
  • Adding a fireplace

Things that sometimes require a permit include building a deck, replacing siding, and building a fence. Just remember – it is always worth checking with the proper parties before taking on a project that may require a permit, even for small projects that probably don’t need one. After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Remember – while getting a permit for your renovation may seem like an unnecessary obstacle, it is a requirement to keep everyone safe. Ensuring that building improvements are up to code means that new structures and changes to existing structures follow the current laws and regulations.

It’s also important to let your Massachusetts insurance agent know about any changes you plan to make to your home, so that your home insurance policy may be updated accordingly. Your home insurance policy covers your home for the replacement cost of your home and not the market value.  So as you do improvements or increase the living space of your home, your insurance agent should be kept current of the changes. And remember – keeping things up to code, and installing safety features, will keep your insurance premiums low!

Vargas & Vargas Insurance is always here to help answer any questions you may have.