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.

These Auto Insurance Companies Are Giving Money Back During COVID-19

couple looking at reduced insurance premiums during shelter-in-place orders

It’s no secret that the COVID-19 global pandemic has caused immense strain — physically, mentally, and financially. While the uncertainty of the coming months continues to weigh heavily on everyone’s minds, more and more stories are coming to light every day about individuals and corporations trying to do what they can to help. The insurance industry is among them. Several companies have implemented plans in recent days that will attempt to lessen the monetary burden their customers are facing for car insurance and other policies. Wondering if your company is one of them? Check out the list below. 

Farmers

Customers with Farmers or 21st Century-branded policies will see a 25% reduction on their premium for the month of April. The discount will be applied as a credit to next month’s billing statement. If you paid your premium in full, it will be issued as a check or direct deposit to the account on file. The reduction is being applied automatically and requires no action on your part. 

State Farm

State Farm policyholders will be apportioned part of a $2 billion dividend from the company. While exact percentages for individual customers will vary by state, policyholders will be credited a percentage of their premium from March 20 through May 1. The company estimates that the average will be about 25% of the premium for that time frame, and customers don’t need to take action to receive the credit. 

Progressive

Policies active with Progressive at the end of April or May will receive a 20% premium credit. The company will notify its policyholders when the credit will appear, and it will be automatically credited toward the balance of their next bill. If you’ve paid your policy in full, then either a check will be issued, or the amount will be deposited into the payment account on file.  

Allstate and Esurance

Through the months of April and May, Allstate and their family company Esurance are offering customers a 15% refund based on their premiums for those months. The money will be directly deposited into whatever account their latest payment was made (or credited to their account) – so no action is required by customers to receive the money. The company is also offering payment relief plans upon request, extended coverage for personal vehicles in certain commercial capacities, and the ability to sign up for free identity theft coverage through 2020. 

Nationwide

For policies active as of March 31, 2020, Nationwide will be offering policyholders a one-time premium refund of $50. When you’ll see the money will vary by state regulatory approval. The company is also offering the ability to suspend some cancellations, defer payments for certain policies, and waive some late fees in certain circumstances due to COVID-19 related hardships. While no action is required for the premium refund, you’ll need to reach out to a representative for additional considerations.

USAA

Every member with USAA who has an auto policy in effect as of March 31, 2020, will receive a 20% credit on two months of premiums without needing to contact the company. Extended coverage, policy leniency, and special payment arrangements are also available upon request. 

Geico

 A 15% renewal discount is being offered by Geico for auto, motorcycle, and RV policies set to renew between April 8 and October 7, 2020, for 6-month policies and between April 8 and April 7, 2021, for 12-month policies. The credit is also being extended to new business policies written between April 8 and October 7, 2020.

No action is required on the customer’s end; the discount will be credited automatically upon renewal. Cancellations due to nonpayment have also been paused through at least April 30, 2020, for all states, while some states may get longer windows. You can see if your state has a longer grace period here.  

Liberty Mutual

Liberty Mutual customers with personal auto insurance policies will receive a 15% refund on two months of premiums, based on the premium amount as of April 7, 2020. The refund will be automatically deposited into the account used to make your last payment or by check. When the funds will arrive is subject to individual state regulations, but customers do not have to take any action to receive their money. 

Vargas and Vargas Insurance is here to help you. As local independent insurance agents, we represent many local insurance companies that are also offering to lessen the burden when it comes to your automobile insurance premiums. Contact us with your insurance questions or to get a quote. We’re available during business hours at 617-298-0655, or you can reach out through text and online. We take pride in helping you with all of your coverage needs and look forward to taking care of you today.

The Financial Benefits of Getting Life Insurance Early

Young adults can save a significant amount of money by obtaining life insurance before they turn age 35. Yet, most young adults miss this opportunity. If you’re in your twenties or early thirties, it’s important to consider the financial advantages of getting life insurance now. 

Your Total Lifetime Cost Is Lower

Age is the primary factor insurers use to determine the amount of your life insurance premium. Generally, the cost of life insurance increases with each year of age. For term life insurance policies, the premium remains the same for the duration of the policy. Someone who purchases term life insurance as a young adult could potentially pay thousands of dollars less than someone who buys the same coverage at an older age.

To illustrate this, let’s meet Robert and Matthew. Matthew is a healthy 30-year-old man. He purchases a 30-year term life insurance policy for $299 a year with a $250,000 benefit. His 40-year-old brother Robert is in good health, too, and he decides to get a policy with the same term and coverage amount. Robert pays a $442 a year.

Although they bought the same coverage, Matthew saves $4,290 because of his age. Also, since Matthew’s annual premium is lower, his youth would give him the advantage of paying less overall — even if he had a longer coverage period than Robert.

Good Health Has a Financial Benefit

Your health also has an impact on how much you’ll pay for life insurance premiums. Adults under age 36 are more likely to be in good health. It’s the period in your life when you’re least likely to have chronic health conditions like obesity, diabetes, or hypertension. Chronic illnesses raise the cost of life insurance.

In summary, as a young adult, you have a window to reap an incredible financial benefit by not waiting to get life insurance. Contact us today to learn more about our term life, whole life, and universal life insurance services.

To Escrow or Not To Escrow?

Many Homeowners have an escrow account for their mortgage payment. The purpose of the escrow account is to maintain a balance of funds the mortgage lender uses to pay bills on behalf of the Homeowner such as property taxes and insurance.

Many other Homeowners do not have an escrow account, even if they have a mortgage; they pay their own taxes and insurance directly.

Not every mortgage program requires that a Homeowner maintain an escrow account.  The general rules are the following for an escrow requirement:

  • Down payment less than 25% at time of purchase
  • Government Insured mortgage (FHA, VA), regardless of down payment at time of purchase

If your mortgage is not a Government-insured mortgage, and your down payment is less than 25% you still have the option to request a “waiver” of the escrow account requirement. Sometimes a lender will charge a premium—usually in the points paid—to waive the escrow requirement.

There is one primary benefit to having your property taxes and insurance included in an escrow account.  This is the monthly budgeting benefit.  Since the taxes and insurance escrow is included in your mortgage payment, then the mortgage payment is the only budget item you need to plan for.  

But there’s an important negative aspect to an escrow account.  The “set it and forget it” mentality that can easily set in.  That is, since your Homeowner’s insurance is included in your mortgage, many Homeowners not only forget to review their insurance on an annual basis to determine savings on premiums, but these same Homeowners often have no idea of the amount of their annual insurance premium, including when the premium increases.

If you have the opportunity to remove at least your Homeowners Insurance from your escrow account, you should do so.  This control allows you to discuss your insurance twice every year with your Independent Insurance Agent to lower your premiums and to take advantage of any developments that can improve the quality of your insurance coverage. 

The process to remove your Homeowners Insurance from your escrow account can be difficult but is worth the effort.  Contact your mortgage servicing lender today to find out if this option is available to you.

How to Read Your Declarations Page(s)

Have you ever read an insurance contract? Not many have.

However, this voluminous document has everything you need to know about your insurance coverage and is essential in the event of a claim.

There is a short cut: The Declarations Page.

This document outlines and summarizes your insurance coverage. And it’s easy to read and only a few pages. It’s also key to determining if you have adequate coverage at an affordable price.

Policy Number and Policy Period  This is the top of your policy.  If you need to speak to your Independent Insurance Agent about your policy, you should direct your attention to this section at the outset of your conversation.

The policy period also helps for you to mark your calendar so you can be reminded of your annual review.

Maybe your credit score is improved or maybe your kids are grown. These are just a couple examples of life events that can occur that warrant an annual insurance review.

In addition to lifestyle changes, there is the likely possibility that insurance carriers have revamped their policies. You may be eligible for new discounts or more competitive pricing.

Coverages and Premiums.  The different coverages of your policy are presented line-by-line with the attendant premium in the right column, or in some cases, the discount in a line item, such as a security device.

The coverages are accompanied by the coverage limit. For your homeowner’s policy for example, the dwelling limit will show what your house would cost to be replaced. Notice your liability limit. This coverage limit should never be lower than the value of your home.

Total Annual Premium.  Down at the bottom of the page is the TOTAL PREMIUM for your Insurance Policy.  Usually this will show as an annual number, although that may be different depending on your payment plan for the policy.  You can also see different payment options for your premium; some insurance plans give you discounts depending on the frequency of payments. 

These declaration pages will help when it’s time to review with your independent agent. Know your coverage, know your renewal date so you can discuss with your agent if your coverage is maximized and your premiums are competitive.

Please read our other blogs related to annual insurance review suggestions.

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.

Managing Growth

Growth can sneak up on us.  Whether it’s your family or your business, one day you realize you’ve grown larger than when you started. 

  • Two cars when once there was one.
  • Five employees when previously you had two. 
  • A new spouse when you once lived alone. 

Growth is a good thing, it’s the keeping-up-with-growth that’s difficult.  Unless you’re organized and prepared, then growing becomes easy-peasy.

One area we often overlook, when growth occurs is whether it sneaks up on us or we prepare for it, is with our insurance.

Here’s where your Independent Insurance Agent comes in. We help your growth spurt feel smooth, organized, and best of all, prepared for any happenstance.

We often advocate that our clients undertake an annual review with us to see what coverages best suit their needs with natural changes over time. This helps to ensure quality coverage at an affordable cost whenever possible.

Our facility as your Independent Agent is there for you to advocate and manage when the “growth” word pops up.  Not only can we find the right insurance coverage for your new larger family or business, but we can help you control the costs of that insurance. 

Call us today so we can discuss all of your wonderful growth opportunities and reduce any growing pains so you experience the best possible insurance solutions.

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.

5 Ways to Reduce Your Insurance Costs. #3 Will Blow You Away!

Saving money isn’t a responsibility you should hand off to someone else, especially if that someone else is the insurance company. 

Knowledge is power.  With these 5 tips, you’ll have the power you need to negotiate lower premiums with your insurance carrier.  Take back the responsibility and own your power!

  1. Take a defensive driving class. Providing proof of your renewed defensive driving class will save money. In some states for 3 years.
  2. Shop for other carriers.  You should speak with your Independent Agent at least annually to see if your current carrier and other insurance carriers can offer lower premiums on the same (or higher) coverages when available.
  3. Reduce your coverage as your car gets older. Because you’re reviewing your policies annually, you can discuss updating your policy based on the advancing age of your vehicle. Collision can be expensive and may not be required.
  4. Increase your deductible.  Look for the perfect equilibrium between the affordability of a larger deductible and lower premiums.
  5. Bundle your auto coverage with your Homeowners and Umbrella Liability policy.  Can you say “Multi-Line Discount?” 

These five simple steps can help you save hundreds of dollars in a given period of time.  All it takes is a few minutes to own your power and make the call!

Speaking of calling…call us today to learn about saving money on your insurance portfolio. Your piggy bank will thank you and so will we!

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.

4 Reasons to Purchase Insurance on a Car Rental

If you’ve ever been on vacation and had to rent a car, you’ve been confronted with the standard protocol of the rental agent asking you if you’d like to purchase (or waive) the optional car insurance.  

Most people are caught unawares and don’t give this simple request the full consideration it needs before they leave on holiday.

You won’t be caught unawares with this simple recommendation: always purchase the additional coverage.

When you purchase that coverage you will acquire some awesome features (you’re going to love Number 4!)

  1. Protection from a collision surcharge on your existing policy.
  2. You don’t have to worry about “loss of use” or paying for the days a rental car is out of commission and unavailable for rental for repairs due to damage you caused.
  3. Your policy deductible is waived!
  4. You get to walk away.

Technically speaking, if you already have PHYSICAL DAMAGE COVERAGE on your own auto policy, then you’re actually covered for property & liability on the rental vehicle.  That doesn’t stop us from recommending the purchase of the additional insurance even to our customers who have physical damage coverage in place.

I promised the recommendation would be simple.  Now when you’re at the car rental counter at the start of your vacation, worrying about getting to your hotel on time, hungry from a long flight, and stressed from the airport commotion, you won’t be a deer in the headlights at the rental counter.  You won’t have to stop and call your agent to inquire if you should take the coverage. You won’t have to text your neighbor if they purchase the coverage or not.

Just say, “Yes, I’ll take the coverage.”

One last piece of vacation driving advice: when driving on long winding roads in the dark, take extra caution for critters who might dodge out onto the road.  Like a deer in the headlights.

When was the last time you reviewed your insurance to ENSURE you’re INSURED properly? 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.

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.