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.

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.

Recap: Room-by-Room Safety Tips

“Precaution is better than cure.”

– Edward Coke

Your home is your safe place, but there are probably dangers lurking inside that pose a threat to you and your family. Make sure that you put safety first with the tips that we posted in last week’s blog, where we went room by room identifying safety concerns and how to prevent potential incidents, including:

  • Be wary of tripping hazards in your living room, like area rugs and children’s toys.
  • Kitchens should be equipped with a fire extinguisher. Never store sharp tools or knives in open drawers.
  • Beware of dryer lint buildup! Clean filters after each load and clean the harder to reach areas regularly.
  • Bedrooms should each have a smoke alarm and working window that can function as an escape route (bedrooms on the second floor should also have an escape ladder for said window).
  • Equip bathrooms with plenty of non-slip bath mats to avoid accidents when floors become slick.
  • Do your research on pool safety and grilling safety before taking part in these outdoor activities.

As much as you do to prevent incidents, you can never guarantee that nothing will happen to your home. That’s why you need a Boston home insurance policy from Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency. Call 617-298-0655 to get your free quote and find out what we can cover so that you feel protected.

Safety Tips for Every Room in Your Home

Your home insurance is meant to be financial protection in case of a mishap in your house. Here at Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency, we are proud to provide our clients with top of the line insurance coverage, but in truth we would rather these mishaps never occur! That is why we dedicate many of our blogs to safety – in the home, in your car, in the snow, and even at work.

In this blog, we want to take a thorough look at the place where you likely spend the majority of your time: your home. Let’s break it down and go room-by-room pointing out safety hazards and how to avoid potential perils.

The Living Room

While your living room may seem pretty safe, there are still a few things that you need to keep an eye on. Entertainment systems should be hooked up using a reliable surge protector, and any tripping hazards (area rugs or children’s toys) should be monitored so that they don’t cause someone to trip and fall.

The Kitchen

Arguably the most dangerous room in the house, the kitchen is full of potential hazards. Make sure that knives and other sharp implements are properly stored (covered, never loose in a drawer). Every kitchen should have an up-to-date fire extinguisher that every family member knows where to locate and how to use in case of a kitchen fire.

There is also a lot of moisture present in the kitchen, so make sure that you keep an eye out for black mold. If you see a spot and suspect that it could be mold, call a professional – it’s not something that should be trifled with. Also be watchful for this hazard in other moist places, like in bathrooms, laundry rooms, and basements.

The Laundry Room

Dryer lint causes many house fires in the US every year, so make sure that you clean your dryer’s lint trap after every load. Also check the dryer’s vent (or have a professional clean your vent) regularly to prevent buildup. If your dryer runs on gas, also regularly check the gas hook-ups to make sure there is no leak.

The Bedrooms

You spend a large chunk of the day asleep in your bedroom, so it is critical to ensure that you have an escape route in case of an emergency (like a fire). Bedrooms on the first floor should have a window that can be opened and climbed through. Bedrooms on the second floor will each need an additional escape ladder for a quick and easy exit.

The Bathrooms

Bathrooms (especially those with tile floors) are a slipping hazard. To ensure that there is less of a chance of someone having an accident, place non-slip bathmats in key locations in each bathroom, especially around showers and tubs.

The Garage

Your car may seem safe and sound when it is parked in a closed garage, but you can never be too careful. Lock your car even when it is at home and remove any valuables from the vehicle. Remember that vehicles are a source of carbon monoxide, so make sure to never run your car in the garage when the garage door is closed.

If you store tools in your garage, make sure that they are secured – especially if you have children. Chemicals and flammable materials should also be stored safely and away from places that are exposed to extreme heat and cold.

The Backyard

We’ve posted several in-depth blogs about how to deal with safety in the backyard, so before the weather warms up do your research on pool safety, grilling safety and more.

In addition, consider adding security cameras to the outside of your home – they’re not just for the rich and famous anymore! These constantly vigilant eyes on your property can help to protect you from package thieves, monitor pets and children, and much more.

General Safety

Speaking of home security, do you have a security system in your home? You can install one yourself or have a professional installation – the important thing is that you have a system that you can arm when you are away. Nowadays, you can also connect most home monitoring systems to your internet of things, allowing you access to the information from your smartphone.

Throughout your home, you should have one specific item: smoke alarms. They are critical in ensuring that your family is protected in case of a house fire. The National Fire Protection Association recommends one in every sleeping room of your home, as well as at least one on each floor of your home. Also make sure that you test or replace the batteries in your smoke alarms with every Daylight Saving Time clock change.

Now that you know these safety tips for all the rooms in your home, double down on your protection with a five-star home insurance policy from Vargas and Vargas Insurance. Call 617-298-0655 to speak to an experienced Dorchester insurance agent about your options, and to find out what we can offer you with a free home insurance quote. There’s no need to hesitate, because there’s no obligation.

Steps to Take After Closing on a Boston Home

Whether you’re a first-time home buyer or you’ve been through the home buying process before, you may ask yourself: “Ok, closing is over… now what?” The truth is that once all the paperwork is signed, you’ve got your work cut out for you! Here are a few things to add to your “Post Closing To-Do List.”

Store Your Important Documents

When you close on a home, you will be entrusted with many papers regarding your home. When in doubt, don’t throw it out! Keep these papers in a safe place in case you need them in the future. One of the best things that you can do is scan these papers and store them in the cloud, keeping the originals in a safe deposit box.

Put Safety First

Without question, one of the first things you should do when you get the keys to your new place is to change the locks. You never know who holds a copy of the existing locks, so it’s best to start fresh. The cost that you incur will be well worth the peace of mind that it brings to know that copies of your homes keys are floating around the neighborhood, especially given the possibility that previous homeowners could have given out copies to maintenance workers or others. Also make sure that you update the pin number on the existing security system, if you choose to renew the service.

Clean to Your Own Standards

The home is empty, so this may be your only opportunity to do a deep cleaning without having furniture in the way. If you are particular about how things are done you may opt to do the initial cleaning yourself. Otherwise, there are many home cleaning services in the Boston area that would be happy to do a one-time job that will get into every nook and cranny so that you can start with a (literal) clean slate.

Now is also a great time to have a pest control service come to treat your property. Some mortgage lenders will require this as a part of their contract, but it is probably a good idea regardless.

Make Improvements

After everything has been cleaned, you may choose to make some improvements to your new home. The complexity of the improvements that you choose is up to you! You could decide that your home is perfect as-is, or that it simply needs a new coat of paint. Painting is an easy way to give a home a fresh feeling, and to make it feel more like your own space.

There are also more involved projects that you may want to take on, like remodeling the kitchen or adding a pool. It’s your home – the sky is the limit!

Familiarize Yourself with Necessities

When you own a home, there are a few things that you need to be able to locate in a jiffy. One is the water system shutoff. If a pipe ever bursts, you don’t want to have to wonder where to go to stop the water. Also check the breaker box and make sure that everything is well labeled, and that there is a battery-operated light nearby so that you’re ready for a power outage.

Before you move in, have a professional check and perform maintenance on your home’s cooling and heating systems, as well as the electrical outlets and plumbing. You probably already had a professional inspection, but it never hurts to have the first maintenance out of the way so that you can establish a routine.

Now is also a great time to ensure that the home’s smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are working properly. Add a recurring reminder to your calendar to check these detectors twice a year – typically it is recommended that this be done during the Daylight Saving Time clock changes.

Move In!

Once you have done the things outlined above, it’s time to start moving in! This is pretty self-explanatory, just make sure that you’re careful if you or any loved ones does any of the heavy lifting – the last thing you need when trying to set up a new home is an injury. If you’re hiring professional movers, check to make sure that they have the right insurance coverage so that you can’t be held liable if any of their workers are injured on the job. Last but not least, ask your Massachusetts insurance agent about how your possessions will be covered during your move, and how you should file a claim if anything is damaged or broken.

Ensure That You’re Prepared

You never know when trouble will strike, so make sure that you’re ready for anything. Create or practice your family emergency plan. Make sure that all members of your household know where the emergency kit is kept, and how to use everything in it. Also keep a list of emergency contacts where everyone can access it, including the phone number for your favorite local insurance agency.

As a new homeowner, you need to make sure that you have the right insurance protection. This means buying the right amount of coverage, not just the minimum amount required by your lender. To find out what types of coverage you should have for your Boston home, call Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency at 617-298-0655.

Tips and “Tricks” for Handing Out Halloween Candy

There’s no doubt about it – Halloween is right around the corner. No doubt you’ve noticed the huge displays of decorations, costumes, and candy in your favorite stores. If you’re planning to get in the spooky spirit and pass out candy to trick-or-treaters this year, here are some tips to make sure that you are one of the ‘cool houses’ on the block:

  • Let trick-or-treaters know that they should come to your home for candy on Halloween night. This should be done by decorating your home (it doesn’t have to be extravagant) and by leaving the porch light on.
  • Kids love when they are recognized, so do yourself a favor and brush up on this year’s most popular costumes, including Marvel and DC superheroes, Disney princesses, and more.
  • Only give out candy that is sealed in its original packaging. While it is a nice thought to give kids homemade treats, most parents won’t allow their kids to eat these kinds of treats from strangers.
  • Your trick-or-treaters will be looking for sugar, so don’t disappoint by handing out pencils (or worse – toothbrushes). If you want to give something like a pencil or small toy, do so alongside a piece of candy.
  • If you don’t want to be bothered by your doorbell all night long (and you don’t mind missing all the cute costumes), you may choose to put out a small bowl of candy. It’s best to put out less and refill often so that latecomers aren’t disappointed by an empty bowl.

Before the big day, make sure that your home is ready for any ‘trick’ with the right Massachusetts home insurance policy from Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency. One quick call to 617-298-0655 will help you ensure that no ghouls, goblins, or poltergeists get the best of you this Halloween.

Create a Family Emergency Plan

Hurricane season is in full swing here in New England – are you prepared? One of the best ways to make sure that you and your family are ready in case of an emergency is with a family emergency plan. If you don’t have one, here are some things that you should think about and decide:

  • Designate one out-of-town family member or friend that each person in your family can contact if there is an emergency. This person will be in charge of making sure that everyone is safe and act as a liaison between family members if needed.
  • Every person in the family should know the out-of-town contact’s phone number, as well as one phone number for each member of the family. “It’s in my phone” doesn’t count – these numbers should be memorized so that they can be accessed from anywhere.
  • Designate two meeting places in case of an emergency. One should be local – somewhere within a few miles of your home. The other should be further away in case of a more widespread disaster. Also make sure family members know the location of the closest shelter in the area.
  • All family members should know the locations of family emergency kits – including those in the home and in vehicles. Make sure everyone knows what is in the kits and how each item should be used.

Make sure that you are doubly prepared by keeping the Vargas and Vargas Insurance numbers among your emergency contacts. By having our office number (617-298-0655) and our after-hours line (617-322-5289) with your other numbers, you will be sure that you are able to get a claim going right away on your home, auto, or flood insurance policy if you need to do so.

The ‘ABC’s of Boating Safety

Summer is finally here, and that can only mean one thing – it’s the perfect time to take your boat out and enjoy the water. So, grab a friend or family member and hit the deck! But first, make sure that you brush up on your boating safety with these quick ‘ABC’s of Boating Safety:

  • A – Avoid Alcohol: It is important that the person operating the boat is not impaired. Leave your alcohol ashore, especially since the effects of alcohol are exaggerated by sun exposure.
  • B – Be Prepared: You should always do two things to prepare for a boating trip in case of an emergency – make sure that someone on land knows your plans, and communicate your emergency plan to everyone on board.
  • C – Common Sense is Key: When you’re boating, make sure that you listen to your gut instincts. Don’t overload the boat with passengers (or gear), cut your trip short if you start to sense that a storm is brewing, and always carry the right safety equipment when you go out on the water.

Make sure that you share these safety tips with your friends and family as you prepare to take a trip out onto the water. And remember, if you want to talk to an insurance professional about the best way to protect your watercraft, call Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency at 617-298-0655, text 617-409-0329, or email us. We can get you a quick and hassle-free quote for Massachusetts boat insurance so that you can spend less time on the phone and more time out on the water!