Protecting Your Most Prized Possessions: How to Insure Your Engagement Ring

The question has been popped, and now you’re sporting a shiny new rock on your left hand. Congratulations! Before you start hearing church bells and say, “I do,” it’s important that you take the time to protect your valuable new asset with the proper insurance policy. While ring insurance may not be the most romantic thing you’ve ever thought of, protecting your beloved piece can give you peace of mind. You’ll know you’re covered in the event of an unfortunate situation. Here’s what you need to know about getting your engagement ring insured.

man proposing to a woman while holding an engagement ring

1. Don’t Wait to Insure Your Ring

As soon as the ring is purchased, you or your fiancé can have it insured. The sooner you choose to do so, the sooner you’ll be protected. 

2. Understand How the Insurance Works

When it comes to finding an insurance company to insure a piece of jewelry, you have two options: adding it to your homeowners or renters policy, or finding an independent company that specializes in jewelry. The cost of the insurance will depend on if your insurance company requires a deductible and where you live. For policies with no deductible, you will likely pay more in monthly premiums. On average, you can expect to pay $1 to $2 for every $100 your ring is worth.

3. Ask the Right Questions

Before you commit to a policy, be sure to ask your provider these questions:

  • Are you covered for damages, loss, and theft?
  • How do you prove that the ring disappeared?
  • What circumstances aren’t covered?
  • Can you choose who does repairs on the ring?
  • If a replacement is covered, where are you allowed to buy a new ring?

4. Get It Appraised 

Choose an appraiser who has the proper credentials to give you an accurate value of the ring. Be sure to keep a copy of the documentation that proves your ring’s condition and worth, so that you can not only have it replaced if something happens, but also so that you pay the appropriate premium on your investment.

While some appraisal services may try to exaggerate the value of your ring, getting the actual value of the ring is critical to keep you from paying higher monthly premiums unnecessarily. It’s also worth noting that most insurance companies will choose to replace a missing ring rather than write a check to the consumer to replace it. Many already have relationships with jewelry wholesalers and will never pay the retail price or pay for an inflated appraisal value.

Vargas & Vargas Insurance can help you enjoy your engagement ring for years to come without worrying about it getting lost or damaged. Contact us today to learn more about our competitive insurance services and how we can protect your most prized possession.

What You Need to Know About Forced Place Insurance

young couple in their living room

Unexpectedly finding yourself paying for forced place insurance can create a significant dent in your monthly budget. This type of insurance is a lender’s response to expired or insufficient insurance, and it costs significantly more than your own policy. It sometimes as much as four times the cost of your own policy. Fortunately, there are steps homeowners can take to resolve their current insurance deficiencies and request that their lenders remove the forced place insurance policy. 

What Is Forced Place Insurance? 

Forced place insurance is an insurance policy that your mortgage company purchases to cover their interest in your home if:

  • You let your home insurance policy expire, or
  • Your policy does not meet their coverage requirements.

Forced place insurance generally only covers the cost of your mortgage. While other insurance policies cover your possessions and the full cost of replacing your home, as well as protect you in the event of a lawsuit, forced place insurance does not protect the homeowner and only replaces the cost that protects your bank or mortgage company. 

Why Is Forced Place Insurance So Expensive?

Forced place insurance is generally more expensive than regular homeowners insurance. That’s because it is an extra step that your lender needs to take if they determine that you have not met the insurance requirements specified in your mortgage. Because your property must be insured in order to protect your lender, allowing your homeowners insurance to expire — or purchasing a policy that does not meet the needs of your area — gives your lender the right to purchase any policy they choose for your property.

In many circumstances, the cost of forced place insurance can cost multiple times the amount of a typical homeowners insurance policy. Because the cost of this policy becomes the homeowner’s responsibility, most lenders will not shop around for an affordable option.

If you want to know more about forced place insurance and how to get a more favorable policy, we can help. Contact Vargas & Vargas Insurance today.

What You Need to Know About Personal Property Insurance (for Your Home)

family in their home

Homeowners insurance in Massachusetts is complicated. That’s why the staff at Vargas & Vargas is creating blogs. We want to help our customers understand the most important insurance topics as they relate to YOU. With this article, we’ll explain personal property insurance, also known as contents coverage.

As always, feel free to reach out to us directly to speak to a licensed agent if you have questions beyond the scope of this article.

What Is Personal Property Insurance?

Personal property coverage, or contents coverage, is a protection built into your homeowner’s policy for the contents of your home. It covers your belongings, like:

  • Furniture
  • Clothing
  • Carpeting
  • Dishes and cookware
  • Almost everything else you own (with a few exceptions)

Take a look around your home. What would it cost to replace everything if the home was to burn down? It would probably cost quite a bit. So most homeowner’s policies will start their basic guess of your personal property’s value at 50% of your home’s reconstruction value. In other words, if we believe your home would cost $300,000 to rebuild, we can guess that your belongings are worth about $150,000. 

To get more refined valuations, keep receipts for the more expensive purchases in your home. They can be very helpful after a loss. Also, every homeowner’s insurance policy is unique. Some programs provide more contents coverage than others. So talk to a licensed agent if you feel your contents coverage isn’t enough. We can always provide more!

What Isn’t Covered?

Certain items aren’t protected by personal property coverage. The list includes things like:

  • Luxury jewelry
  • Fine art
  • Expensive furs
  • Heirloom antiques and collectibles of high value

If you own valuables like a $70,000 painting or a $20,000 Gibson guitar signed by John Lennon, then talk to your agent to get it endorsed on your homeowners policy.

But if you own a $13,000 diamond ring, you’ll need special insurance for it. This type of coverage is called a Personal Article Floater (PAF) — or simply a “floater” — in the industry. Just provide us with certified appraisals, and we’ll do the rest!

Need to talk about personal property insurance? Vargas & Vargas Insurance has service centers all around Massachusetts, and we’re happy to help. Email us today or call 617-298-0655 to speak with a licensed agent.

What You Need to Know About Liability Insurance for Your Massachusetts Home

Liability coverage may be the least understood portion of a typical Massachusetts home insurance policy.  Other standard home insurance coverages — like dwellings coverage or personal property coverage — protect you from losses to your own property. In contrast, liability insurance protects you when you’re legally responsible for someone else’s losses.

How the Liability Portion of Your Home Insurance Policy Works

Liability coverage usually extends to you and family members who live in your household. You’re covered if someone sues you or a family member for causing certain injuries or property loss. Liability insurance pays expenses, such as the cost of your legal defense, court costs, and settlement fees (or damage awards). 

Examples of What Liability Insurance Can Cover

Your liability protection typically includes accidental injuries to someone visiting your home.  For instance, you’re covered if your guest gets hurt from falling on your icy porch steps.

You’re also covered for certain property damage and accidental injuries caused by you or a covered family member that happens away from your home. Here’s an example. Your child is playing baseball in a neighbor’s yard. He pitches the ball, and it accidentally hits the neighbor’s child in the head. The neighbor’s child is seriously injured. Your liability coverage takes care of your attorney’s costs and the settlement fee related to that event.

What Homeowners Liability Insurance Does Not Cover

Liability insurance does not cover intentional acts or injuries. Also, homeowners liability insurance does not cover losses related to the operation of a vehicle or business. You need auto insurance or business insurance for those costs.

Deciding How Much Liability Coverage You Need

For any type of insurance, the coverage limit is the maximum amount of money that the policy will pay out. The coverage limit for the liability portion of home insurance can be as little as $100,000. However, since the median home value in Massachusetts is $426,330, $100,000 is not enough coverage for most Massachusetts homeowners. 

You can and should increase your coverage limit to be equal to or more than your home’s value. Losing your home to pay a settlement fee or damage award is a possibility for homeowners who don’t have sufficient coverage. Contact us today so we can help you find a home insurance policy that has the liability coverage that meets your needs.

Jewelry and Gem Valuations: GIA or Bust!

As Massachusetts insurance professionals, the licensed agents at Vargas & Vargas Insurance are here to make sure your risks are covered. Part of that mission is to educate our customers about the importance of credible paperwork. Today, we’re talking specifically about worthless jewelry valuations and fake appraisals.

older woman giving her adult granddaughter heirloom jewelry

In January 2020, Jewelry Insurance Issues published this article, making all of us in the industry aware that AGA, the “Accredited Gemologists Association” logo has been ripped off and is being used on bogus jewelry certifications. The alarming thing is that AGA isn’t even a gemology lab! It’s a non-profit club whose mission is to provide networking between jewelers, gemologists, and material sources.

So which certificates can we trust? 

Diamond & Jewelry Certifications We Can Trust

The most respected diamond or gem appraisal will come from the Gemological Institute of America, or the GIA. Jewelers and investors around the globe trust GIA above any other source. Many investors and insurers will only accept GIA paperwork. There are a few other sources available for certifications, however, including the following:

  • The retailer or manufacturer may provide a gem certificate when you purchase the piece. These are to be taken with a grain of salt. Some insurers will write a personal articles floater (the type of insurance associated with a fine piece of jewelry) based on this certificate. Others will not. 
  • A professional appraisal from a certified gemologist may also appease an insurer.
  • The International Colored Gemstone Association (IGA) also offers gem certifications. Their reputation isn’t illustrious, however, so an insurer or collector might not accept them.

Personal article floaters (PAFs) for jewelry are written on a case-by-case basis. If you believe your ring is worth $25,000, the best thing you can do is send it off to GIA (through a related jeweler) for a genuine lab report. As of 2020, GIA lab inspections cost around $500 for general consumers, but a GIA certified jeweler can have them done at a third of that price.

The process takes three weeks. Afterward, you’ll have irrefutable evidence of your gem’s value.  

Jewelry Scams Happen

Gem and jewelry “fakes” and “cons” have been around for centuries. If you’ve been conned into buying a fake gem, know you’re not alone. Sometimes a gem can be innocently mislabeled, as in the case of the Black Prince’s Ruby, which is a spinel set in the imperial state crown of England. Yes, the highlight of the crown is an imposter! If your lab report comes back describing your gem as a simulant, lab-created, or of much lower quality than you thought, you may have some options. Speaking directly to the jeweler is your first course of action. A good jeweler will do their best to fix the situation. 

If you purchased your piece from an online retailer or auction house (eBay), you might have protections in place via PayPal or your credit card. The good news is that you won’t be paying to insure a fake!

We hope you’ve enjoyed our discussion of bogus gem reports. We sure enjoyed writing it! If you’d like to learn more about insurance for your most cherished heirlooms, email one of our agents today!

Does Your Renters Insurance Cover Your Side Hustle at Home?

A side hustle is an excellent option for most people to generate extra income. If you run a side hustle from your home, you may not have insurance to cover the business. Without proper insurance, you could find yourself at a loss if you get sued or if your property is damaged.

woman working on her side-hustle in her home office

Renters Insurance

Your renters insurance policy covers an extensive range of property inside your home. It can help you recover laptops, computers, tablets, projectors, and printers after theft or damage. Sometimes, renters insurance can cover items you keep outside and use for deliveries such as a bicycle. In some cases, you can cover your side hustle by adding a rider to your current policy.

However, there are exceptions. Most renters insurance policies cover items you use at home and not for business. Some policies might not extend to cover items used outside the home. For example, if you are a photographer with expensive equipment that you use outside the house, a standard renters policy might not help you.

If your policy provider chooses to cover property that you use for business, the limit might be lower than one provided under a business policy. When the business item you want to include in your renters insurance is not part of your current contract, talk to your provider about an endorsement.

How to Know When Your Side Hustle Needs Insurance

When you are considering finding separate insurance for your side hustle, there are several questions you should ask yourself. Those include:

  • Do customers come to pick products from your home?
  • Do you handle critical and private information?
  • Do you handle people’s children or pets?
  • Could anyone get sick as a result of your business?
  • Would a lawsuit leave you broke?

Commercial Policies

Let’s face it, your side hustle may be safe for now, but there is no assurance. When tragedy strikes, you need to be prepared. Finding commercial insurance for your business will provide better coverage than your current policy. There are various commercial policies available depending on the risks of your business.

Looking for Insurance?

To find the right insurance cover for your side hustle, contact Vargas & Vargas Insurance today!

The Essential Insurance Checklist for Massachusetts Restaurants

The Massachusetts restaurant industry is thriving, and you have invested substantial time and money into launching a successful eatery. It is important to protect your investment, but the dining industry poses certain risks that may not be covered by standard commercial property, general liability, or workers’ compensation insurance policies.

Owner of a restaurant standing in the doorway of her restaurant

Restaurant entrepreneurs should be aware of several specialized coverages available to them:

  • Product Liability Coverage: The food-service industry demands rigorous health and safety standards. However, even with sound food-handling protocols, foodborne illness may strike and make guests ill. Also, cross-contamination in the kitchen may trigger allergic reactions in some diners. Product liability coverage can help insure against claims made by guests who become ill from eating at your restaurant.
  • Equipment Breakdown Insurance: Restaurant equipment can be expensive to own, lease, maintain, and repair. Unfortunately, this expensive equipment can break down or fail as a result of weather events or a power surge. Equipment breakdown insurance can help you cover out-of-pocket costs associated with certain instances of equipment failure.
  • Food Contamination Coverage: This insurance may protect against losses arising from spoilage resulting from mechanical or power failure.
  • Liquor Liability Insurance: If you serve alcohol, you should already maintain the liquor liability insurance required by Massachusetts law. However, you will want to check your limits and exclusions and make sure you are covered for both your on-site and catering activities.
  • Loss of Business Income Insurance: If your business is closed for any period of time because of property damage or severe weather, loss of business income insurance may help bridge gaps in income so you can meet your financial obligations.  
  • Commercial Auto Insurance: You may need commercial auto insurance for company-owned vehicles like food trucks or catering vans that employees drive. If your employees use their personal vehicles to deliver food, you may require hired and non-owned auto insurance to protect against accidents caused by the employee in the course of his delivery duties.
  • Additional Coverage: Your restaurant likely has furniture, furnishings, and artwork, and you will want contents coverage to help pay the cost of replacing these items in the event of damage or destruction. If you lease the building in which your eatery operates, you may also need betterment coverage. This coverage provides protection against loss or damage to fixtures or improvements you have made to the space.

A restaurateur who owns her building will have different insurance needs than one who leases space in a food court. Similarly, a steakhouse that offers a selection of expensive wines may require different coverage than a deli that serves paper-wrapped sandwiches. Contact the local experts at Vargas & Vargas Insurance to ask about a customized insurance package that is suited to your specific needs.

4 Things First-Time Homebuyers Won’t Ask about Home Insurance

As insurance agents, we get requests for quotes from first-time homebuyers all day long. It’s essential to remember that these folks aren’t insurance agents or realtors. They may not understand how home insurance works, what it covers, and why they need it. Many first time buyers will assume a home insurance policy is just like an auto policy.

Realtor explaining home insurance to first-time homebuyers

Vargas & Vargas Insurance is here to help! With this blog, we’re going to cover a few concepts every agent should be reviewing with first-time homebuyers.

1. What Is Replacement Cost Value vs. Actual Cash Value, vs. Purchase Price

Most home insurance policies are written at Replacement Cost (RCV). It’s crucial to explain to new buyers that we’re insuring the home and its contents for what we estimate it will cost to replace the home with a brand new home and brand new contents on the same piece of property. 

This is important because:

  • Many buyers assume we’re insuring a home for Actual Cash Value (ACV) — what the building is worth today, considering depreciation.
  • Buyers may not understand that the purchase price of the property does not equal the cost to replace the home completely.
  • The purchase price of a property and replacement cost of a home are not the same thing. 

2. Are Their Vehicles Covered When Stored in Other Structures?

First-time buyers might think that their stored vehicles, which aren’t insured with an auto policy, will be covered by Other Structures coverage. This is not the case!

3. Will a Swimming Pool Change Their Rates?

Possibly. Swimming pools present a significant risk, even when they’re empty. New homebuyers should consider purchasing an umbrella policy if the home has a swimming pool. 

4. Is Your Client’s $10,000 Diamond Engagement Ring Covered? 

Generally, no. Most home insurance policies will set a specific limit on valuables like:

  • Jewelry
  • Furs
  • Cash
  • Musical instruments
  • Artwork

Ask your prospective client if they own these sorts of expensive items, and explain what the limits of coverage are. If your customers do have these sorts of belongings, often in the form of precious wedding jewelry, they probably need a Personal Articles Floater (PAF).

Be sure to put notes in their file, describing your conversation. At Vargas & Vargas, our goal as insurance agents is to be sure that customers have the protection they need so that they won’t face any surprises. Check out our blog for more great insurance topics, or get in touch with us today.

What Costs Are Part of Your Monthly House Payment?

If you’ve been looking at houses, you’ve probably seen real estate websites where the estimated monthly payment is shown. This is a great feature for breaking down the cost of a home that you will pay off in 15 or 30 years, and it can help you stay within your budget.

Woman smiling as she reviews her house payment at home
Monthly house payments include your mortgage payment, a portion of your property taxes, and your homeowners insurance premium.

However, it doesn’t always show the whole picture. The estimated payment only factors in the cost of the loan for a traditional 30-year mortgage at the current interest rate. It does not include the other costs that are factored into a standard monthly house payment. Two additional costs include:

  1. Property taxes
  2. Homeowners insurance

Property Taxes

Just like everything else in life, having property is also taxed. When you take out a mortgage loan, the property taxes are calculated into your monthly loan payment and put into an escrow account. When your taxes become due, your mortgage company makes the payment for you.

The percentage of taxes you owe depends on where your property is located, and this can be checked prior to purchasing a home. 

Although it may seem like a negative, having your taxes included in your monthly payment is actually a great way to stay organized. It takes away the burden of paying property taxes in one lump sum. Also, you don’t have to worry about whether you made the payment or not. (And if you love your home, you definitely don’t want to forget paying your property taxes!)

Homeowners Insurance

The other cost that goes into your monthly mortgage payment is homeowners insurance. It is standard for the insurance cost to be part of your mortgage payments, and mortgage lenders will often not loan you money if you do not have it. If anything should happen to your property, the lenders want to make sure that they can recover their costs. However, having the right home insurance policy isn’t just for them — it’s for you. You’ll want to be protected in case your home is damaged, and the right homeowners insurance policy can give you peace of mind.

You get to pick out the home insurance policy that works for you, and you should have it ready at the time of your closing. Here at Vargas and Vargas Insurance, we can guide you through the process. Contact us today for more information.

What’s the Difference Between Condo Insurance and Home Insurance?

Insurance is vital, regardless of whether you own a home or a condo. It can help offset damages to your property, so you don’t have to worry about paying for those damages out of your pocket.

happy young couple buying a condo and talking to the property manager
Protect your new condo by learning how condo insurance is different from home insurance.

However, the type of insurance you choose will dictate how any damages to your property will be handled. While both home and condo insurance might cover your property, there are some subtle differences between the two. Here is how home and condo insurance differ:

Condo Insurance

Condo insurance covers any non-communal property that you use as a property owner. Ideally, it should cover certain ‘walls-in’ losses, replacements, and repairs, as well as your personal property. For any damages that happen outside your unit walls, the condo association’s master insurance policy should offset them. But you should always verify the details before you purchase a condo or change your insurance policy.

Condo insurance also comes with loss assessment coverage. In situations where the condo association levies condo damage fees on all unit owners, this will cover the ad hoc fees. Condo associations will typically do this if the cost of offsetting damages to the communal assets is more than what their master insurance policy covers.

Home Insurance

Traditional home insurance tends to be for single-family dwellings, and it can be as simple or complex as mortgage lenders allow it to be. It should cover your entire home structure, including construction materials and other permanent elements. Most insurance policies also cover any personal property that is valued at 50% or greater of the insured home itself. The insurance can also cover other structures within the vicinity, such as detached garages and sheds.

Filing Claims

Filing claims is typically easy for home insurance, as it can be made directly with the insurers. On the flip side, there are some complexities in filing claims through condo insurance, and the specifics will depend on the situation.

For instance, the condo association insurance should take care of water damages as long as they are as a result of burst pipes outside your condo walls. Your condo insurance will, however, take care of damages arising from burst kitchen sink pipes, as they are within the unit’s walls.

Insurance policies tend to have rules that property owners have to adhere to for an easy claiming process. Regardless of the insurance policy you have, it pays to follow these rules. Be sure to read through the fine print of your insurance policy documents to choose the right coverage. If you have any questions about condo insurance or you’re looking for a new policy, we’re here to help. Contact us online or at 617-298-0655 to talk to our team.