Agency vs. Online

“You get what you pay for.”  

Everyone loves to shop for a bargain, a discount, a reduced price, more features for less money.  One might also say, “You don’t get what you don’t pay for.”

When you’re buying insurance, the “don’t get” part and the “don’t pay for” part can lead to you paying a lot more money than you bargained for later on when you need the insurance the most. 

Your insurance is supposed to be there to anticipate risks to your life, your livelihood, your wealth and your health.  If you pay for less coverage because you need to get that bargain price, you’re putting all of the above at serious risk.

Time is money.  Spend your time with an independent insurance agent.  The independent agent is working for your best interest, both in today’s premium pricing and in tomorrows unforeseen costs. 

For me, it’s difficult to be objective on this topic. I’m an independent agent in business for several decades. I can’t be objective when it comes to protecting my clients and providing them with the best insurance their money can buy.  

If your sole objective is the lowest premium price, we can certainly help you with that goal. If your objective is the best premium price with comprehensive coverage that prepares you for worst case scenarios, we can help you with that as well.

If your objective is all of the above with the added value of a trusted, local, experienced insurance professional, the one who thinks of you as a real person and not an unknown internet shopper, then the Independent Insurance Agent is the only way to go.

So, what is your objective: solely price, or price combined with quality service, local experience and good old-fashioned “looking out for my reputation by looking out for the customer” business sense?

That’s not to say you can’t get lucky and find a direct connection online with an Insurance Carrier who can provide such experience, accessibility, superior service and price.  It’s easy enough to spend your time searching. 

In our experience as Independent Agents, we’ve heard the stories, lots and lots and lots of stories about consumer experiences when working with online quotes and purchasing from an unknown representative on the internet.  Pretty much every time, these horror stories result because the consumer focused solely on lowest price.

Too often the lowest price online quote comes with no explanation of what exactly it is the consumer is buying.  The coverage can be horribly mismatched with the customer’s needs. Many times, the online quote fails to consider local conditions that must definitely be taken into account to provide an accurate insurance policy for real risks unique to a locality.

Your local Independent Agent knows about those risks that may be unique to where you live.  And your Independent Agent wants to work for your best interest, not the interests of the quick “low-price” sale.

Compare next time you need to purchase or renew insurance.  Consider the time spent by your Independent Agent just on the initial interview questions.  Those questions, and your answers to them, affect the advice you’ll receive on the best coverage for your unique situation.  

Now match that to the experience of filling in some boxes on a webpage and receiving the instant gratification of the lowest premium price in seconds!  Price: great!  Coverage: unknown because it relies on the consumer knowing, in advance, the eventualities that come into play when assessing your needs of future risks.

We’d love to be on one side of your comparison shopping! 

Call us today to experience the true value of your money when you work with an Independent Insurance Agent! Call now at 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329. Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

4 Things Your Homeowner Policy Should Include

Shopping for Homeowners Insurance is often rushed and daunting.  And exhausting.  In the flurry of activity leading up to a Home purchase closing, the harried home buyer may speed through the insurance process with the goal of quick and cheap. Let’s slow down ever so slightly! 

Take your time and ask your insurance agent if the quoted policy includes the following 4 vital coverage parts. Your standard Homeowners Insurance Policy covers you in the event of damage from fire, lightning, hail, and explosions.   However, these 4 items are not automatically included.

#1: Higher Liability Coverage.  The dollar value of an insurance payout in the event of a claim is often the number one most overlooked and undervalued part of a quickly-quoted insurance policy.  We like to explain liability coverage to our customers like this: imagine if someone fell on the pathway leading up to your front door.  Imagine that person suffered a serious injury, such as broken bones.  Now imagine that person, whether friend, family, or otherwise, hires an aggressive Personal Injury Attorney to receive compensation for pain, suffering, and medical bills.   Do you think that $300,000 liability coverage is sufficient payout in such a dire event to protect your other cash assets (your bank accounts, your retirement accounts, your children’s college fund)?   Whether it is or is not sufficient, do you want to gamble your wealth away with insufficient liability coverage?   Consider increasing your Liability Coverage to at least $1,000,000.

#2: Storm Damage.  Severe weather over the past dozen years or so has cost Homeowners considerable sums of money.  These Homeowners lived in contentment with their homeowners insurance policies thinking they were covered for all kinds of occurrences.  When the severe weather hit—storm surges from oceans, rivers, and creeks; high-wind conditions; flooding inside basements from ground water saturation due to heavier than normal rains—too many Homeowners discovered to their dismay the lack of coverage for damage sustained due to severe weather.   Discuss flood insurance with your insurance agent.

#3: Power Outages.  Should your home lose power for a sustained period of time you could experience loss of foodstuffs due to your refrigerator not functioning.  Adding this extra coverage to your policy protects your money…and your food.

#4: Additional Coverage for “earth-movement”.  Have an in-ground pool in your backyard? If you live in an area prone to earthquakes, landslides, or sinkholes, you’ll want to add additional coverage to your standard policy to protect your assets and your home against these risks.

We’re happy to spend the time necessary to educate you on the best comprehensive insurance for your Home.  Call us today!

Call now at 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329. Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

3 Things Your Homeowners Insurance Doesn’t Cover. Number 3 is a DOOZY!

We encourage people to conduct an annual review of their insurance policies.  Too often, when consumers purchase insurance, they approach the transaction with an eye towards prompt resolution and a focus on price.  This formula of speed+money is a formula for failure in the event of a future claim.

The reason is simple.  A carelessly prepared insurance policy, one prepared in the heat of the customer’s desire for a quick resolution and demand for lowest price could result in a “skeleton” policy that may not properly cover the consumer for a catastrophic eventuality. 

The quality insurance agent, interested in protecting the consumer with the best possible risk coverages, and in protecting their own professional reputation, will take the time to educate the consumer and provide a comprehensive insurance policy.

You may be surprised to discover that there are 3 items, indicated below, that may not be covered by your current Homeowners Insurance Policy.  Spoiler alert, #3 may surprise you!  We’re happy to assist you with a comprehensive, careful, review of all of your insurance needs.  And, education is a key element to how we’ll proceed with assisting you to fully understand risks you can protect for with the right insurance.

#1: Sewer Backup.  Whether your home is connected to a public sewer or you have a septic system, a backup due to a blockage, storm-surge, or other calamity, can damage electrical systems, furniture, floors, and precious possessions. Standard homeowners insurance policies may not cover you at all for such damage or may only provide very limited coverage.  You can upgrade to more comprehensive insurance to include special coverage for sewer backup.

#2: Precious Collectibles.  Basic insurance policies may not cover your stellar baseball card or antique cookie jar collections.  If the policy does cover your collection, the limit of coverage may be far below the actual value of your collection.  When you review your insurance, be sure to mention your collection and an assessment of its value.  To be sure, consider obtaining an independent appraisal of your collection to include that with your upgraded, comprehensive Homeowners Insurance policy. 

#3: Termite infestation and damage.  Not covered by a standard, basic policy. Period.  Depending on where you live, especially in the Northeast of the United States, termites and the damage they cause are a real and impending menace.  Homeowners often realize there’s an infestation long after the termite colony has ensconced itself within the wooden borders and interior of your home.  The cost of treating and removing the infestation, along with the costs of repairing the damage, can easily escalate.  Be sure to address these concerns in your annual review.  Consider also contracting with a local exterminating company to inspect your home annually for these nasty pests.

Insurance involves assessing a future, unknown risk.  That risk could affect your health and/or your wealth.  A carefully prepared insurance policy protects you for a comprehensive array of possible risks.  But in the rush to purchase the insurance, the consumer shops without the appropriate due diligence.  And, in the interest of making the sale, an insurance agent may simply provide the basics of a policy to appease the consumer’s request for speed and low price. 

Call us today for your free annual insurance review.  We’re thrilled to spend the time with you to find you the best policy that comprehensively protects your health and your wealth at an affordable price!

Call now at 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329. Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

Review Condominium Financials Before You Purchase

Condominium (Condo) Buyers should obtain and review the financial statement of the Condo as part of your purchase process.  Have the statement reviewed by a professional such as an Attorney or CPA.  The financial health of the Condo can affect you in the future as you settle into ownership of your Condo unit.  The financial statements can also give you a good indication of the competence of the Condo Board and Managing Agent.

Condo Complexes on the smaller size may be exempt from having their financials audited. The ByLaws will identify if an audit is required.  Audited financials means the CPA firm has verified the numbers presented in the statement rather than compiling from information provided by the Condominium Board Members and/or Managing Agent.

The financial statement should cover the previous two years (three is preferable) and often a Year-to-Date statement.  A Financial Statement includes:

  • Income and Expenses for the entire Condominium.  This is also known as “Operating Statement.”
  • Balance Sheet demonstrating Assets and Liabilities.
  • Cash Flow Statement.

Some key areas you want to focus on include:

  • Reserve Fund (for major capital repairs and improvements),
  • Cash Flow to determine if the building is taking in as much money as it is paying out monthly, Maintenance Fees owed (an indicator of the financial responsibility of your soon-to-be-neighbors),
  • Footnotes.

The financial well-being of your future home is as important to the transaction as every other aspect of your purchase.  Request the Financial Statement as early as possible in the negotiating process, even before you’ve presented your Offer, if possible.

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: Healthy and Happy Kids

“The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.” – Denis Waitley

Back to School time is upon us, and it’s a great time to take advantage in this change of schedule to integrate something new into your child’s schedule. Keep your kids happy and healthy by taking advantage of some of the following tips:

  • Schedule some free time for your children to encourage unrestricted play and the use of imagination.
  • Set a bed time and explain to kids the importance of getting enough sleep.
  • Make sure that children practice good dental hygiene – these habits will be crucial for later in life!
  • Social interaction is critical in a child’s development, so make sure that your child gets plenty of playtime with other kids their own age to develop necessary social skills.
  • Water can be very dangerous for children, so kids should receive water safety training early. Make sure that a professional teaches your kids, and that they are always supervised when near water.

Will you be integrating any new activities into your kid’s routine as they go back to school for the year? If you want to integrate some new insurance plans into your insurance portfolio, call Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency at 617-298-0655. We can get you a free quote for home insurance, auto insurance, and much more.

Tips to Keeping Kids Healthy and Happy

Many Vargas and Vargas Insurance customers are parents, and they will be the first to tell you that the start of school is right around the corner in Boston! This time of year, many parents like to reevaluate their kids’ happiness, and make sure that they are still on the path to success. Here are ideas of just a few of the things that you can do to make sure that your kids are happy and healthy:

Inspire an Active Lifestyle

What you teach your kids will act as the foundation for the rest of their life. Nowadays, it is easy to park kids in front of a TV or tablet to entertain them, but it is critical to limit their ‘technology time’ and have them be active. Did you know that (according to the US Department of Health and Human Services) that only one in three children is physically active every day?

Healthy Diets Start Young

Here is a statistic from the Department of Agriculture that may surprise you: “Typical American diets exceed the recommended intake levels or limits in four categories: calories from solid fats and added sugars; refined grains; sodium; and saturated fat.”

It’s no secret that American diets aren’t stellar, but you can set your kids up for success by teaching them how to put the right fuel into their bodies. The USDA’s Choose My Plate initiative is a great place to start for kids. There is even a resource for making small changes to improve a child’s diet slowly over time.

Plan Some Free Time

Planning out free time may seem a little backwards, but kids need unstructured time to let their imagination free. In today’s world, it’s easy to schedule your kids for an unending string of activities to keep them focused (and a few extracurriculars has shown time and time again to be a good idea when it comes to helping children become successful and well-rounded) but don’t pack your children’s schedules.

Sleep is Vital to a Growing Body

It is easy to let kids stay up late when they start to whine about bedtime but think twice about being overly flexible with your kid’s sleep schedule. Sleepfoundation.org recommends that school-age children get between 9 and 11 hours of sleep each night. They also note that at this age “school-aged children become more interested in TV, computers, the media and Internet as well as caffeine products” which could result in increased sleep resistance.

Build Healthy Habits

There are several habits that you should instill in your children while they are young:

Setting a foundation of proper oral hygiene is a critical in minimizing how much dental work a person will need as an adult. You should stress this to your child! Kids should brush their teeth twice a day – after breakfast and before bed. Brushing should last for two minutes, so get an hourglass timer or download an app to play a two minute song or short video to cut through the boredom.

Wearing a helmet while on a bike or scooter has been shown to significantly reduce head injuries in children. In the same vein, children should always wear a seat belt when riding in the car.

Help kids stay healthy and avoid getting sick by encouraging regular hand washing, especially before eating. Kids that are sick should stay home to avoid infecting other children and causing an epidemic at their school or club.

Children should also get in the habit of regularly visiting health care providers, like the doctor and dentist. Kids may put up a fight, but it’s a necessary evil in life (even for adults!)

Playdates and Sleepovers Abound

When kids are young, it is critical that they get plenty of social interaction with their peers. While it is important that they focus on their studies, make sure to also recognize that playdates and sleepovers are a critical part of children developing social skills to be a well-rounded adult. And remember – “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!”

Teach Water Safety

When kids are young, they are at a constant risk of hurting themselves. You can do your kids a huge favor by making sure that they are taught water safety at a young age. Even a small amount of water can be dangerous for a child, so make sure that they are taught to swim, and to only go in the pool when an adult is supervising.

From everyone at the Vargas and Vargas Insurance office, we wish you and your children a very happy Back to School season. And remember – if you ever have a question about your insurance policies, we’re here for you! Just call 617-298-0655 to talk to an agent about your insurance questions or get a free quote on insurance that will protect your family.

Types of Insurance for Small Businesses

At Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency, we know the value of small businesses – that’s why we take such pains to protect the ones we insure with top-notch Massachusetts small business insurance policies. Whether your business is established or just starting out, it has many moving parts, and no two are exactly alike, so the insurance that each one needs is unique. Based on your industry and the risks to which you are exposed, your commercial insurance policy may include:

Property Insurance

If your business has a storefront or an office, property coverage is critical. You need to make sure that your location and its contents are protected in case of any type of covered loss, including most types of severe weather, as well as fire, vandalism, and more. For added protection, talk to your insurance agent about adding a flood insurance policy to your property insurance.

General Liability Insurance

You never expect your business to do harm to others, but you should be protected just in case you are ever the target of litigation. Depending on the policy, your liability insurance may also cover damages or medical fees for which you are held liable, up to the policy limits.

Professional Liability Insurance

If your business makes recommendation or gives professional advice, you may need special liability insurance in case your guidance results in harm to your customers. Ask our agents about how much coverage you should carry based on your line of business, and we will help steer you in the right direction.

Excess Liability Insurance

When it rains, it pours. That’s where umbrella insurance comes in! If you have umbrella insurance, you will be protected above and beyond your other liability insurance policies. This helps to ensure that you won’t have to close your doors if you are ever targeted by a large lawsuit.

Commercial Auto Insurance

If your business is responsible for any vehicles, you will need insurance to cover those vehicles and the employees that operate them. Whether your vehicle is for transport of employees or customers, or if it is used for deliveries, you need to make sure that you’re fully protected in case of an accident. For more information, read this post on the Vargas and Vargas Insurance Blog!

Business Interruption

Your basic business insurance policy will cover repairs to your property if it is damaged, but what will cover you if you have to temporarily close your doors? If the loss of income for a short period of time would result in difficulties, you may want to consider business interruption coverage, also called business income insurance.

Data Breach Insurance

Does your business rely on digital data? If your computers are physically damaged, they will be covered… but what about if they are hacked? If your information is stolen and your data is leaked, data breach insurance will protect you. This may also cover businesses that are sued due to leaked information that was kept in paper files, though hacking is much more common nowadays.

Worker’s Compensation

If your business employs a certain number of workers, you may be required to carry a worker’s compensation insurance policy. This coverage will ensure that your employees are protected if they are injured on the job, and can include coverage for medical bills, lost wages, and more. Call our agency to find out if you are legally required to carry this coverage.

Home-Based Business Coverage

If you run your Massachusetts business out of your house, don’t assume that your home insurance policy will cover your business. Often, these businesses will need additional specialized coverage in order to be fully protected, whether it comes as a rider on your home insurance or a separate business policy. Talk to an insurance agent about your business and the type of coverage that you need. For smaller businesses like these, the insurance premiums are often very affordable.

Personal Insurance Policies

While it isn’t a part of our Massachusetts business insurance policies, we want to take this opportunity to remind you not to neglect your personal insurance policies. Trust our agency with your home and car insurance policies in addition to your business’s insurance so that you can rest assured knowing that you are fully protected both personally and professionally.

Want to see what a personalized business insurance policy from Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency looks like? Just call our agency at 617-298-0655 to speak with a commercial insurance expert about your needs. We will craft a unique policy for you in no time, and at no cost to you! In addition, we can make sure that your business gets all potential discounts and credits that you qualify for – after all, you have better things to spend your money on!

So, what are you waiting for? Call or click now for your free quote and see if your business can be better covered with a policy from Vargas and Vargas Insurance.

Bridging the Gap Between Captive and Independent Insurance Agents

In the insurance world, there are two types of agents: captive agents and independent agents. Years ago, you could ask either type, and they would have told you that it’s their way or the highway, and that the other type of agent isn’t as customer friendly for various reasons.

Thankfully, here at Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency, we know better. Having worked as both a captive and an independent agent, I can say with confidence that both have their ups and downs, but we can fulfill our ultimate goal of helping our customers by working together.

That’s right – formerly sworn enemies working together. It may sound like the plot of a B-movie at first, but it’s true. Like I mentioned earlier, captive and independent agents both have their strengths and weaknesses:

  • Captive Agents wrote the book on branding consistency. While they may not all wear ‘khakis’ like Jake from State Farm, they know how to unvaryingly sell a product and have an image of uniformity that independent agents could learn from.
  • Independent Agents, because they aren’t beholden to one insurance provider, are all about flexibility. They can cover anyone in almost any situation with something from their proverbial ‘bag of tricks,’ something that captive agents sometimes need.
  • All insurance agents know one thing for certain: it’s important that we continue to evangelize for ourselves as an insurance community. In today’s digital age, an ever-increasing amount of people don’t have a dedicated insurance agent because they’re buying online. It’s our job to show them the downfall of shopping online for insurance, and the benefits of having a dedicated agent to get quotes, file claims, and more.

In the end, both captive and independent insurance agents share one common goal: help their customer get the insurance policies that they need. As a captive agent, it is sometimes hard to find the perfect product for your client within the parameters of the products that you’re allowed to sell.

You can show your customer that you’re willing to be flexible in order to get them the insurance products that they require with a referral to an independent insurance agent just for that product. You will look like an insurance expert, and this gesture will show them that, without question, you have the client’s best interest at heart. And don’t worry – we won’t try to steal your client. We’ll just get them the one policy that they need and send them back to you happy and fully covered.

So, for example, you can send a client to our agency if they need a specialized home insurance policy, but keep their auto insurance and other policies with your company.

If you’re a captive insurance agent and you want to find out more about how you can team up with Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency for the benefit of your clients, all you have to do is reach out! Call our agency at 617-298-0655 and we can have coffee and figure out how to start a mutually beneficial relationship right away.

I will finish this blog with this quote:

“Price is what you pay value is what you get.”

-Warren Buffet

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How to Get the Best Black Friday Deals

When the feasting is over, and Thanksgiving is done, it will be time to gear up for deals – that is, if you’re a Black Friday shopper. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for a few dozen years, you know what Black Friday is: a day of savings and often a great opportunity for bargain shopping.

Here’s the secret to getting the most out of Black Friday – it’s all about planning ahead.

Gather the advertisements for stores that you are interested in, and see when their sales start, and whether they are available online or in-store only. In recent years, some stores have been starting sales on Thanksgiving night, while others wait until bright and early on Friday morning. If you want to snag more than one big deal, you may need to recruit a friend or loved one so that you can divide and conquer once the shopping madness begins.

Make sure that you don’t get lured in by a fantastic sounding deal. Just remember, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Retailers want to sell as much as they can, so they sometimes make inferior products sound like a good buy, so check the specs of electronics before you make a purchase.

Don’t forget to increase your savings with coupons, memberships, and savings apps. Every little bit of money that you save now will mean more that you can spend during the holiday season!

And remember – you don’t have to wait until Black Friday to save on your Massachusetts insurance policies. Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency always has great deals on home insurance, auto insurance, business insurance, and all of our other products. Just call 617-298-0655 for a free quote.

Tips for Filing a Condo Insurance Claim

Condominiums are a great alternative for homeowners. With a Massachusetts condominium, you get perks of homeownership and perks of apartment living in one place.

When there is an issue, however, you need to know which policy covers the damage. This will tell you who must file the claim – you, the unit owner, or the condo association. Here is a quick breakdown of what each policy typically covers.

Master Insurance Policy – Often considered “walls-out” coverage, a condo association’s master policy often covers the walls of their buildings, as well as common areas. They may have liability insurance in case an accident occurs in a common area. There is often additional Directors and Officers Liability coverage built in to the policy.

Unit Owner’s Coverage – Insurance for condo unit owners often covers everything inside the walls. This includes personal property, fixtures, appliances, and more. Sometimes unit owners will also need to insure carpeting and cabinets as well. In addition, it is always advisable to have liability insurance – just in case an accident occurs inside the unit.

While this is typically how the coverage falls, each condominium association will have their own unique policy, and the verbiage in that policy will affect your Unit Owner’s policy. To know for sure who is responsible for damages, call your insurance provider.

And if you need a Massachusetts condo insurance policy, just call our agency at 617-298-0655. We are experienced at writing both master insurance policies and unit owner’s coverage, so we are ready to take care of your needs, no matter how big or small they may be. Call today!