Home Inspection for Your Condominium Purchase

Condominium Buyers often ask:

Should I have an inspection done by a Certified Home Inspection service? 

The answer is a definitive YES!

While a Condominium (Condo) typically features construction and/or maintenance features addressed by Condominium Management, the Buyer should conduct an inspection for two main reasons.

First, the interior of the Condo. This area is not the responsibility of Condo Management. A Buyer needs to be aware of concerns such as deferred maintenance for appliances, windows, bathroom fixtures and interior plumbing.  You want to avoid a costly repair in the first 3-5 years after your purchase.  Likewise, the Condo Buyer needs to be aware of potentially catastrophic issues that could cause reconsideration of the purchase.  Lastly, the inspection may reveal items that are of immediate concern, leading to a request for a repair or pricing credit from the Seller.

The second reason you want to complete an inspection is to determine the overall “physical health” of the Condo.  A roof in need of a future repair is as much of a concern to a Condominium Buyer as to a Home Buyer.  Any repairs to the common areas of a Condominium are paid for from the “Capital Expense Reserve” fund.  Should there be a major repair on the near horizon, such as a roof replacement, the Condo Buyer wants to determine there are sufficient funds in the Reserve Fund to cover the cost of repair.  Otherwise that Buyer, once they are an Owner, could be subject to an assessment or multiple assessments as well as an increase in the maintenance fee, resulting in an increase in their monthly payment.

The bottom line answer to the question posed by Condominium Buyers is a resounding yes when it comes to obtaining an inspection by a Certified Home Inspection service as part of the purchasing process.

Review your current insurance policy now to be 100% sure you have all the appropriate coverages before it’s too late. The review is free of charge. Call us now at 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329. Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

Avoid Being the Target of a Phishing Scam

At Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency, we always want to make sure that our clients are safe. Insurance, for example, is a great way to ensure financial security in case of an unexpected loss. If you have the right insurance policies, you can rest easy knowing that you are financially protected.

Another way that we provide safety tips to our clients is through these informative blog posts. We recently read about an upsurge in phishing scams, so we want to make sure that you are well versed on what these cyber attacks are and how you can avoid falling prey to them.

What is Phishing?

No, don’t look for your bait and tackle just yet – we’re talking about phishing, with a ‘ph,’ which is a term for the scam where hackers attempt to attain your personal electronic information via electronic means, often email, phone call, or text message. The information they target can vary but is typically either usernames and passwords or credit card information.

Why is it called ‘phishing,’ you ask? Well, it’s done by lulling the target into a false sense of security and attempting to lure them into giving out sensitive information!

This type of scam has been around for more than a decade. The first lawsuit related to phishing was in 2004 against a California teenager who used an imitation of the AOL website to trick people into entering their credit card numbers.

Unfortunately, hackers are evolving the avenues used for phishing more quickly than cybersecurity experts can defend against them. This means that you must be constantly vigilant about making sure that your information is secure.

What can you do to avoid being targeted?

In today’s world, one of your top priorities is to keep your personal information safe from prying eyes. Thankfully, there are a few basic steps that you can take in order to help ensure that you are protected from those that would take what isn’t theirs.

The first thing you should brush up on is password security. You probably have a lot of online accounts, ranging from the unimportant to the critical. Consider this: how many of these accounts have the same (or very similar) passwords? If a hacker were to somehow obtain the credentials to one of your accounts, would they then have access to many more?

In order to keep your online accounts secure, each one should have a unique password. Preferably something that doesn’t involve names of loved ones or the numbers of your birthday (and please, never use “password123” – it’s the first thing that hackers will try). The best thing that you can do is use a completely random string of letters, numbers, and special characters. To simplify this process, consider using a well-vetted password manager (there are several available) for your password creation and management. Also consider using two-factor authentication on websites that allow it, namely for your banking accounts.

Once you have secure passwords, you need to do your part in making sure that you don’t accidentally give them to hackers. This is easier said than done, as phishing scams are getting more difficult to detect. When you’re in your email, make sure that you only click on links or open attachments from trusted senders. If you ever receive an email that makes you uneasy, remember that it’s better to be safe than sorry – especially when it comes to your personal data. Verify that a website’s URL is correct when clicking a link. Some scammers get crafty and make URLs look authentic by making things seem legitimate, but you may discover that they’re using a special character or adding or omitting letters from your intended destination. Also, before entering your login information on a website, check to make sure that the URL starts with ‘https’ – the ‘s’ means that the website is secure and encrypted, and can be one step in verifying that entering your information is safe.

In addition to being careful in giving out your information, make sure that you and your loved ones are using spam filters and ad blockers when on the web. These can help block out known scams from even being seen on your browser or in your email client.

Remember, the best thing that you can do to keep your information safe is to be very careful about giving it out. If you’re ever in doubt about an email or communication that you get from our agency, just call our office at 617-298-0655 and ask if it is valid. We can help you determine whether we need information from you and get it safely and in a way that doesn’t compromise your online security.

We’re also always available if you need a quote for Boston insurance policies! Call 617-298-0655 for a free consultation on Massachusetts home insurance, auto insurance, business insurance, or any of your current or needed policies.

Recap: 2018 Blogs in Review

“The process for finding, creating, and consuming information has fundamentally changed with the advent of the web and the rise of blogging.” – Ryan Holiday

Here at Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency, we have put a lot of effort into providing our clients with interesting and informative content all year round. In 2018 alone, we have posted dozens of blogs with varied content – you’re sure to find something of interest to you or your loved ones. Here are just a few examples of posts from the last year:

What was your favorite blog post from 2018? There are so many great ones from which to choose!

We also want to ask that you subscribe or stay tuned to our agency in 2019. We have a lot of exciting plans and we don’t want you to miss a thing! There will be plenty of blogs with tips about insurance, home ownership, automobiles, running a business, and much more.

And, as always, make sure that you call Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency in 2019 if you have any insurance needs. We will always work hard to make sure that you get the coverage you need, so don’t fret – just call 617-298-0655.

Recap: Insurance Awareness Day

“Insurance is the only product that both the seller and buyer hope is never actually used.” – Unknown

Did you catch our blog last week about how to celebrate Insurance Awareness Day on June 28? The day may have passed, but it is never too late to reaffirm the importance of insurance in your life. If you haven’t yet, here are some of our suggestions for making sure that your insurance portfolio is in tip-top shape, and that you are ready for anything that will come your way:

  • Check out our blog archives for more information about the importance of having the right insurance coverage.
  • Call Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency for a free insurance review – you should do this at least once a year to ensure that your policies are up to date.
  • Refer a friend or family member to our agency for a free insurance quote – they may be able to get better coverage or a lower price on their policies.

Insurance may not be glamorous, but it is a crucial part of making sure that you and your loved ones would be financially covered if something were to happen to your home, car, health, etc., and that makes it worth celebrating on this Insurance Awareness Day!

If you need a free Boston insurance policy review for your home insurance, auto insurance, business insurance, or any other product, simply call Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency at 617-298-0655.

Key Facts About Your Home Insurance Policy

Your home is likely one of your most valuable assets. Your home insurance policy is what ensures that you won’t have a financial crisis if your home is damaged or destroyed – that makes it very important. But here’s a question that we like to ask all of our clients: How well do you know your insurance policy? Most people know that they have a policy, and may know their premium, but for most people it stops there.

Here is some ‘food for thought’ – you shouldn’t wait until you need to make a claim to know the ins and outs of your Massachusetts home insurance policy! Make sure that you are prepared by knowing several things about your policy before you have an issue. Here are four major things that you should know:

Know Your Deductible

If you have to make a claim, you will be responsible to pay for a certain amount of the reparations before your insurance policy starts to pay out. Do you know this number? Some people choose to set aside some money to cover their home insurance and auto insurance deductibles so that they won’t have to scramble to make the payment if they need to make an insurance claim.

It is also important to realize that many home insurance policies also have a few different deductibles. There is one main number used in the event of a claim, but your policy may also have a larger deductible for losses due to earthquakes or floods. This may be a specific dollar amount, but it could also potentially be a percentage of the claim amount – which could add up fast in the event of a major disaster.

Know Your Limits

This may sound like sage life advice, but we’re talking about your insurance limits! Home insurance policies always have a maximum dollar amount for the coverage they provide for different types of claims, just like the deductibles above. Depending on your policy, you may have different limits for property damage, personal possessions, loss of use, liability, etc. Your Boston insurance agent will be able to help you determine the amount of coverage you are required and recommended to have for each of these.

Examine these limits on your current policy and ask your Boston insurance agent if they are high enough. You may want to consider additional home insurance coverage, or you can buy an umbrella insurance policy for added liability coverage. It is also important to remember that you shouldn’t necessarily insure your home based on what you paid for the property. Instead, you want to be able to rebuild your home if it is completely destroyed, so look to insure your home for the ‘rebuilding cost’ rather than the purchase price, which could be more or less. For older homes, you will also want to add in additional insurance if your home would need to be fixed in a way that adhered to newer local building codes.

Know Your Covered Perils

It should come as no surprise that your home insurance will almost definitely cover you if there’s a fire – but what about some of the other curveballs that life could throw your way? Would your home insurance cover your losses if…

  • Your house flooded?
  • You were affected by an earthquake?
  • Your neighbor’s tree fell on your home?
  • A visitor slipped and fell on your property and sued you for damages?
  • Your dog bites a visitor or guest?

There are a million possible things that could go wrong in and around your home, but your home insurance may require a little added protection to make sure that you are fully covered. Talk to your insurance agent to find out if you are prepared.

Know Your Potential Savings

When purchasing a home insurance policy from Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency, there are many potential discounts for which you may qualify. Which ones are you receiving? You can get discounts for having several insurance policies through the same carrier, as well as discounts for having a security system and/or fire alarm. You may even qualify for a new discount if you have insurance through the same carrier for more than a set number of years!

If you think there’s a chance that you could qualify for an additional discount since your last Massachusetts home insurance quote, call to speak to your insurance agent. They will be able to check and see whether you are getting the right coverage at the best possible price.

Don’t know any (or all) of the above? Find out the details of your policy by calling your Vargas and Vargas Insurance agent at 617-298-0655. We can explain to you your deductible, policy limits, covered perils, and search for any new discounts that you could receive. The call will only take a few minutes, so don’t put it off any longer!

Boating Tips for Your Summer on the Water

There’s a buzz in the Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency office at this time every year. As the temperatures rise here in the greater Boston area, our employees get excited about participating in their favorite outdoor summer activities. Some like to hit the pool, others break out their grill, and many look forward to spending time out on the water.

If you have a boat that you’re preparing to enjoy this summer, here are a few tips that you can use to maintain your watercraft, and to keep your passengers safe so that they can enjoy the waves.

Take Care of Your Watercraft

Here on the Vargas and Vargas Insurance blog, we have a few posts detailing the best ways to keep your car running smoothly. In honor of this post all about boating, we would like to share some similar tips about how to keep your watercraft in tip-top shape:

  • Wash the boat. This tip may seem overly simple, but it is a key to proper boat maintenance. Especially if you take your boat out into salt water, you need to rinse it thoroughly after every trip out. Otherwise, salt or other compounds may harm your boat’s finish.
  • Change your boat’s oil. Just like cars, boats need regular oil changes. Make sure to follow your manufacturer’s instructions when it comes to how often to change your oil, and always use a marine grade oil.
  • Before taking your boat out for the first time each year, you may wish to have it inspected by a licensed professional. Make sure that they check the fuel and electric systems, fluid levels, the hull and propellers, belts, cables, hoses, and more. Once this is done you should feel confident about taking your boat out for a spin.

If you do your best to keep your boat maintained, you should have no problem taking her out on the water this summer.

Tips for Days on the Water

Before you take your boat out for a day of fun in the sun, make sure that everyone that will be on the boat knows and agrees to follow your rules. Here are a few suggestions for rules that you and your passengers should follow.

  • Know the basic navigational rules. There are lots of rules to follow when you’re driving a car – lanes to follow, and guidelines for who has the right of way. In a boat, these types of things can be a little more complicated on the water, so be sure that you know how to navigate a boat before you cast off.
  • Check the weather. Here in New England, summertime weather can change without warning. Get in the habit of checking the forecast immediately before you cast off to make sure that you won’t get caught in a storm.
  • Have an emergency kit. You should already have an emergency kit in your home and in your vehicle. Also add one to your boat so that you are prepared for ‘rough seas’ – both literal and figurative.
  • Wear a life jacket. Think of life jackets on a boat like a seat belt in a car. You wouldn’t drive or ride in a vehicle without wearing a seatbelt, so make sure that you have a floatation device on when you’re on a boat.
  • Don’t drink and boat. Make sure that no one that operates the boat has consumed alcohol. You always assign a Designated Driver when hitting the town so that you can drive home safety, and you should do the same for days on the water. Remember, just like driving under the influence, boating under the influence is illegal in the state of Massachusetts.

It is also important to make sure that you have the proper paperwork before you set sail. Persons age 12-17 must complete a basic boating course prior to operating a motorboat or personal watercraft. If you are planning on using your boat to go fishing, check out the Massachusetts fishing license requirements here.

Once everyone agrees to follow these simple rules, you will be able to have a fun and safe day out on your boat.

Massachusetts Boat Insurance Can Help

Similar in many ways to an auto insurance policy, a boat insurance policy can help keep you and your loved ones protected against potential calamities. With the right watercraft insurance, you can rest assured that you will be financially guarded if something happens to you or your boat.

Make sure that you do your due diligence and check many boat insurance providers before choosing a policy. But remember – you don’t have to do all the legwork yourself! One quick call to Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency at 617-298-0655 will put you in touch with a Massachusetts independent insurance agent who will search several providers and help you choose the watercraft insurance policy with the right coverage based on your needs.

Recap: Gifts for Grads

As graduation season approaches, we know that you may be searching for the perfect gift for the graduate in your life. If you’re struggling, we have some ideas to help you!

Nowadays, graduation is celebrated at all levels, so consider getting your little graduate a fun gift to celebrate their favorite activity or take a family trip to one of Boston’s many kid-friendly attractions.

High School and College grads have achieved huge milestones in their lives and deserve to be celebrated. Gift them with a traditional gift like a watch or piece of jewelry or go for a leather good like a high-quality wallet or purse. If you want to be more practical, give something that they can use in their home (a coffee maker, for example) or simply give cash for the grad to spend as they please.

Graduates are also often the recipients of sage wisdom and advice, so make sure to tell the graduates in your life about how important it is to have the right insurance coverage. Sure, most people think it’s a boring topic, but if they ever need to file a claim, they will thank you for making sure that their insurance is up to snuff. Give your graduate the Vargas and Vargas Insurance phone number (617-298-0655) and have them give us a call – we will make sure that they are protected as they take the next steps in their life.

Gift Ideas for Graduates

As Spring begins to transition into summer, we prepare for graduation season. Graduation is an important time in a young person’s life. As they move from one lever of education to the next (or from education into the workforce) it is common for loved ones to acknowledge all the hard work they have accomplished with a gift. If there is a graduate in your life, we have a few ideas for thoughtful gifts that will stand out from the crowd, based on the age of the recipient.

Children

Whether your little one is graduating from Kindergarten, Elementary School, or Middle School, it is up to you to show them how proud you are of them, and how important it is to take pride in their education. Nowadays, many schools even offer graduation ceremonies to these students!

If you want to get these little graduates a gift, focus on an experience that they will remember. Have dinner out as a family to celebrate, or take a day trip to a place that your child will enjoy, like the New England Aquarium or the Boston Children’s Museum.

Want something that you can wrap and put a bow on? Encourage your child’s interests. Get an activity kit revolving around your child’s favorite subject, whether it’s art, science, or even Phys Ed! Alternatively, if your elementary school student is headed to a Middle School that gives out lockers, give him or her some locker decorations to prepare them for the transition.

Teenagers

High School graduation is a huge accomplishment. It signifies the end of ‘required’ schooling, and students have made the decision of whether they will continue their formal education or enter the workforce.

Teens that are going to college will need a lot of stuff. Those moving into a dorm or apartment of their own probably have a wish list full of décor and furniture that provides a great starting point for gift giving – not to mention that cash is always appreciated. They will probably also request a new laptop and/or tablet for their classes.

For those students that will be transitioning to the workforce, a gift that recognizes their new independence could be a good place to start. Watches or jewelry is a traditional graduation gift. Some graduates will take a hiatus from responsibilities to travel – for them, consider a nice camera or some luggage.

Young Adults

Nowadays, graduating from college is a rite of passage, and the point at which many young adults will formally enter the workforce full time. Commemorate this transition into independence with something that celebrates the young person’s metamorphosis.

Most of these young adults are getting ready to move into a more ‘adult’ home now that their undergraduate degree is in hand. You can help them prepare for this with a gift to fit their style – consider a nice coffee maker or slow cooker for their kitchen. You could also give a practical gift in the way of sprucing up their professional wardrobe.

Older Adults

For those who decided to take on post-secondary education, graduation is an even bigger accomplishment. Their education is clearly very important to them, and it takes a massive amount of work to get a diploma at this level.

Commemorate this occasion with a special gift! As we mentioned above, a watch or piece of jewelry is always appropriate, especially something that recognizes that the person has an advanced degree. And if your recipient is sentimental, consider something sweet and thoughtful, like a keepsake box.

Don’t forget – one of the most fun parts of giving and receiving gifts is in the presentation. Whatever gift you may choose, take it to the next level with over-the-top decoration that you will be proud to hand over. There are a ton of cute ideas for making your wrapping festive and fun without needing a degree in design – check out ideas from Hallmark for making your gift resemble a graduation cap or including a tissue paper tassel.

You can even print your own wrapping paper to make your gift extra special. If you’ve chosen to give cash, you’re not out of luck! There are plenty of creative ways to give a cash gift for graduation – here are just a few ideas from Hative.

And, for the adults graduating in your life, make sure that you pass on some of your wisdom: tell them all about how important it is to have the right insurance coverage. If they’re new to buying insurance, tell them that the process doesn’t have to be confusing or scary. Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency is a top Massachusetts insurance agency that can help them with all of their insurance needs: from home and renter’s insurance to car insurance and more. Have them save our number (617-298-0655) in their phone so that they can continue down the road to success with complete insurance protection for their bright future.

Steps to Take After Closing on a Boston Home

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

Store Your Important Documents

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

Put Safety First

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

Clean to Your Own Standards

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

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

Make Improvements

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

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

Familiarize Yourself with Necessities

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

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

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

Move In!

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

Ensure That You’re Prepared

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

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

Recap: Insurance Mistakes

“Each life is made up of mistakes and learning, waiting and growing, practicing patience and being persistent.” – Billy Graham

As the saying goes, “To err is human.” That doesn’t mean, however, that you should be ok with making easily avoidable mistakes. This includes the insurance mistakes that we detailed in our blog post last week! At Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency, our experienced Massachusetts insurance agents will give you advice and review your insurance policies to ensure that you don’t make common insurance mistakes like these:

  • Insuring your home for its market value instead of the cost to rebuild.
  • Not having a home inventory in the event that you suffer a major loss.
  • Skipping out on policies like flood insurance and umbrella insurance.
  • Buying only the minimum amount of liability insurance with your auto policy.
  • Forgetting to weigh in on the premium vs. deductible trade-off.
  • Paying for unnecessary business insurance policies.
  • Failing to update your insurance policies regularly.

Want a free and no-obligation insurance review? Just call our agency at 617-298-0655 to talk to a great Boston insurance agent about whether your policies will provide the necessary amount of coverage if you make a claim. Also take a minute to subscribe to our blog so that you don’t miss any of our great upcoming content, including insurance tips and tricks, summertime topics, life in Boston, and much more.