4 Reasons Your Home Insurance Premium Increases. Number 2 Will SHOCK YOU!

There comes that time of year when your Homeowner’s Insurance Renewal arrives in the mail.  You’re happily buzzing through your day when you read the bad news: your premium is increasing!

Panic sets in, then a fair amount of anger, and possibly a bit of anxiety. 

Whether your insurance is included in your mortgage payment through an escrow account, or you pay it separately on your own, panic sets in because you know this increase will impact your household budget. 

Anger arises due to the unfairness of this rate increase.
“How dare they!” “Why are they doing this to me?”

The anxiety is the worst part, but also the possible best part of your response to the premium increase.  Anxiety emerges because you truly don’t know why, nor do you understand, why your insurance carrier would increase your premium in such a seemingly arbitrary way.  But that same anxiety can fuel your desire to learn the answer to that question, and then to drive you forward to take action and seek a favorable resolution.

Here are 4 reasons why your Insurance Carrier might increase your Homeowner’s Insurance Premium; the second one will knock you out of your chair!

  1. Claims.  Have you had a claim in the past twelve months?  This is one of the most common reasons for a premium increase.  But this doesn’t always have to be so!  First, query your Insurance Carrier to determine if there are actions you can take to resolve the issue around the claim. For example, if the claim was due to a burglary, maybe installing a quality security system can relieve the premium-increase-pressure. If that doesn’t work, calling your Independent Insurance Agent is a great solution!  Your Agent can either advocate on your behalf with your current Insurance Carrier, or, find another Homeowner’s policy at a lower rate.
  2. Credit Score.  Insurance Carriers use a specific “Insurance Score” to predict the likelihood of a future claim.  The Insurance Score is different than your Credit Score, but uses similar methodology to create a score based on multiple data points.  Generally speaking, if you have good credit, then you’ll have a good Insurance Score.  But the Insurance Score is out of your control unlike your consumer credit score.  With a consumer score, in the event of an error on your credit report that impacts your score, Federal Regulations permit you to dispute the error and work on restoring your good score.  Your Insurance Score, on the other hand, is an unknown to the consumer.  To prevent arriving at a lower Insurance Score, monitoring and maintaining your consumer Credit Score is important.  Find out more at the Federal Trade Commission website here.
  3. Construction Costs.  Your Homeowners Insurance coverage is based on a calculation to repair or rebuild your home in the event of damage or disaster.  Therefore, the costs of materials and labor specific to your area can impact the calculation of those repair/rebuild costs.  If your local construction costs have increased due to market conditions, then it is a good likelihood your Insurance Premium can increase also.  The good news is that your Independent Insurance Agent can review your entire policy. We recommend a Twice-Yearly Review to determine if there are other areas of your policy where you can derive savings to offset any such increase in your annual premium.
  4. One of the most popular reasons for a rate increase is…..drum roll: State Filed Rate Increase. The insurance carrier will file a request with the state to allow for an increase on their policies that affect all policyholders. The only way around this is to call your independent insurance agent so they can shop other carriers who are competitive. Even after a filed rate increase, most insurance companies will eventually revamp their product portfolio to be more competitive. It’s basically a vicious circle.

Bottom Line: Reduce your anger, panic, and anxiety from an increase in your insurance premium by contacting your Independent Insurance Agent for the best and most expert guidance.

Contact our team at Vargas & Vargas Insurance to learn more about the benefits reviewing your insurance portfolio and what other options you have to reduce this emotional event.

Is Twice Yearly Too Often?

It’s often said that “insurance is boring.”  This notion probably leads many consumers to avoid communicating with their Independent Insurance Agent unless absolutely necessary.

Three “absolutely necessary” moments come immediately to mind:

  1. Increased Premium notification
  2. Notice to cancel
  3. A Claim

While you can only minimize your chances of ever having to make a claim on your insurance policy with smart, proactive and risk-aversion thinking, you can eliminate the first two instances of speaking with with your Agent.

The simple way to cancel out these two dreaded tasks is to speak with your Independent Insurance Agent twice a year. You might think you can cut that down to only once a year, around the time of your renewal period coming up.  But twice annually is truly the ideal scenario to deal with this otherwise “boring” task.

Checking in with your Agent in advance of renewal time allows you both to update each other on developments. 

For your part, you get to share news of:
* the new job
* the new child
* the vacation you’re planning
* the new jewelry or artwork
* the new addition to your home you’re planning. 

Your Agent may find this information fascinating and entertaining, but, more importantly your Agent can react to your news with important information on how these wonderful developments can affect your overall insurance plan.   And that call becomes worth its weight in gold.  Because your Agent can then review your current policies for how those policies cover your new life developments. 

If there are any challenges encountered therein, the kind that could affect a premium at renewal time, or worse, offer the carrier an opportunity to cancel the policy, your Agent has the chance to get out in front of the problem.

While you’re busy sharing wonderful developments, your Agent can also update you on any developments in the insurance realm that can either affect your current policies in a negative fashion (again, anticipating problems before they arise at renewal time), or potentially save you money by changing the coverages, policies, or even insurance carriers.

It’s not boring when you’re saving money and improving your insurance coverage.  Make that call to your Independent Insurance Agent. 
Twice. Every year.

Please schedule a call with us to discuss your policy portfolio to ensure you have adequate coverage at an affordable price.

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.

Archive Revival: Why Is Renter’s Insurance Important?

Most people fall into one of two categories: They either own their home or they rent it.

If you rent your home, you don’t need a homeowner’s insurance policy.

You need what’s called renters insurance. This type of insurance policy will ensure that you have the right coverage when you need it the most.

We’ve outlined below how homeowner’s insurance and renter’s insurance are similar and and how they differ. Here is our quick summary:

Property Protection

When you rent your home, you don’t own the physical property. As a result, you are not responsible for insuring the property. Instead, the insurance policy is the responsibility of the property owner.

This means that if there is damage to any part of the exterior and interior of the property including walls, ceilings, floors, doors, or windows, you are not responsible for filing or paying for an insurance claim.

Coverage for Belongings

Similar to a homeowner’s insurance policy, a renter’s insurance policy provides coverage for your personal belongings. You need to take inventory of your belongings to give an estimate on what it would cost to replace your belongings.

When you make your home inventory, make sure that you include everything that you own, including items like electronics, furniture, clothing, and jewelry. Also include any of your own personal appliances that are not owned by your landlord or apartment complex. That way, all of your stuff will be protected against perils like fire, smoke, theft, water damage, and more.

We recommend keeping the receipts of high valued items. We also recommend storing photos of each of your rooms so you have documentation of your belongings. This will help to ensure that you are covered in case of a total loss, but aren’t overpaying for coverage that you don’t need.

Reimbursed Living Expenses

If something happens to the place where you live, your renter’s insurance typically covers your living expenses for a comparable place until the damage is repaired and your home is once more inhabitable.

If your rental home or apartment is destroyed or deemed uninhabitable, call your insurance agent right away to find out what you should do so that reimbursement is allowed.

Liability Insurance

Another type of coverage that is typically included in both renters and home insurance is liability insurance. With this coverage, you are financially protected from the costs that rise if someone is injured at your home.

Depending on your insurance provider and the policy that you choose, this can include both medical costs and legal costs, which can get very expensive, depending on the injury sustained.

As always, all of the information above depends on your insurance provider and your specific policy.

We search several insurance providers to find the one that will give you the best coverage at a price that works for you and your budget.

Cost?

On average, the cost of a renters insurance policy is $120.00 per year for $10,000 of contents, including loss of use and liability coverage, Click here for more details) in Massachusetts.

If you package your automobile insurance policy with your renter’s insurance, most times, the savings by doing so more than covers the cost of the renter’s policy.

If you have any questions about the coverage included in your current policy, or if you need a new top of the line renters insurance policy quote, please call 617-298-0655 to speak with a representative here at Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency.

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.

Back to School: Children and Insurance

Getting children prepped and off to school is often a hectic time. 

The last thing you want to think about is insurance. 
So, don’t.  That’s right, don’t think about insurance!

You’ve got too much on your plate, between clothing decisions, book-buying, book-bag purchases and packing. So, no, there’s no time for insurance.

What you can do, on the other hand, as your crazy, zany, busy early school days proceed is be mindful of things happening that could become an insurance event.  Putting your insurance into a “zen-like” part of your busy day can only help you avoid the dreaded-of-all-insurance-situations:
a claim!

Let’s start with young drivers.  They grow up so fast. When they pass their driver’s test, it’s a bittersweet. You have more freedom and they have more independence with getting from point A to point B.

You forgot to remember that she’d be asking to use the car to hang out with friends, attend school events, go shopping. Back to school time is a great time to be mindful, thinking of your young new-driver’s desires, and prepare yourself, and them, for that driving experience. 

It’s important to carefully remind them about safe driving techniques in order to avoid accidents and claims!

Rushing out the door on those first insane days of school can lead to other potentially dangerous situations, the kind that lead to insurance claims.

How about discussing safety measures before they even leave the house to get on the road? Such as, the coffee machine?  Does it have an Auto-Off feature? 

Too many household fires are caused by coffee machines burning through empty coffee carafes for hours on end.

There are other potentially dangerous events you can avoid when you add a small dose of “insurance mindfulness” into your crazy Back-To-School Days. 

Call your Independent Insurance Agent and ask her to help you become a Zen-Master of avoiding calamitous insurance claim events.  We promise that it’ll be better to enjoy watching your children run off to school in the mornings while you sip your coffee in peace.

Call us for a no-obligation, FREE insurance quote to help you determine that you, your family and your business are protected! 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.

Christmas In August?

I hope you’re enjoying an amazing Summer!  The weather has been mostly wonderful: perfect for picnics, beach days, barbecues on the back deck with family and friends. 

Let’s talk about Christmas.  Wait, Christmas?

but, But BUT, it’s August!

Yes, but who doesn’t love Jingle Bells, chestnuts roasting on an open fire, wrapping paper, lights, ornaments and trees!

Talking about Christmas reminds us that we often take time at the end of the year to reflect on the year coming to an end, and to prepare for the New Year.

Why wait until the end of the year?  Let’s feel the way we do during the holiday season now, in August! 

Why not take a few minutes in the next few weeks, maybe 20 minutes here, another 30 minutes there, 10 minutes and so on…and review and plan for our better financial health.  Let’s think about insurance and the effect that your monthly insurance premiums have on your monthly budget.

Budgeting is certainly something we think about before and during the holiday season, right?

Take 10 minutes to consider your monthly budget, the time to assess your monthly insurance costs, is all it takes to know your numbers. 

Take 20 minutes gathering your insurance policies, whether on paper or in electronic format is what you need to prepare for the phone call, the phone call you won’t have to make later in the year…you know, around Christmas time!

Set aside 30 minutes to call your Independent Insurance Agent, review those policies you gathered in front of you, and discuss your monthly premiums as they exist, and how you can both lower those premiums and improve the quality of your insurance coverage.

Give yourself a Christmas present in August! 
Make your budget healthier, improve your quality of insurance coverage and, best of all, eliminate one item from your end of the year “To-Do” list so you can better enjoy your holidays.

And who knows, you may save enough money to get that treasured gift you’ve been thinking about for your loved one.

Our gift to you is the no-obligation FREE insurance quote to help you determine that you, your family and your business are protected!

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.

Walk Through Your House Like a Claims Adjustor

Hopefully you will never need this advice to come to fruition. 
Hopefully you’ll never have a claim. 

But this is what insurance is all about: preparation.  When you prepare for a catastrophe, an accident, a fire or a theft when you buy the right insurance coverage, you’re creating an opportunity to recover.  The money your insurance pays out in the event of a claim is paramount to that recovery. 

There’s one other step to take in your preparation. When you make a claim, often the insurance company sends out a representative to review the damage or the loss and to assess the amount of coverage that should be paid out.  This person is the claims adjustor. 

Never assume the adjustor is looking to provide you with an equitable settlement on your loss or damage.  The best way to get the best financial recovery is to prepare in advance. 

Let’s look at your homeowner’s insurance to prepare for a claim that, hopefully, will never happen.  Walk through your house like a Claims Adjustor would.  Pretend you’re the claims adjuster but with the interest in protecting YOU, the homeowner.

In the event of a theft, you want to show the adjustor the precautions you’ve taken to prevent break-ins to your home.  Is your alarm system properly installed?  Does it have independent power backup?  Are all locks, including those on windows, secure and adequate? 

For the lost valuables, did you prepare with a high-quality inventory of your precious items?  Of all your items that would need to be replaced in the event of a fire?

Do you have photographic evidence to show to a Claims Adjustor?  For very valuable items, did you get a professional appraisal and is that appraisal recent and current?

For damage to the home due to weather including flood*, can you clearly demonstrate that you, the homeowner, took all necessary precautions to protect your home? 

For example, have you diligently cleared large trees or tree limbs that could easily fall on your home?  Have you created storage solutions in the basement of your home to minimize damage to belongings in the event of a water-intrusion event?

Take an hour and do a complete walk-through of your home.  If you ever have to file a claim, you’ll dramatically improve your payout.  That will go a long way to the peace of mind you need to recover.

Call us today to learn about your homeowners insurance and how to protect yourself in the event of an unforeseen claim. Now is the time: before you need your policy to go to work for you.

Your health and financial health depend on it. Call us 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.

*Flood insurance is always specifically excluded from homeowners. Please consult with your agent if you are interested in flood insurance.