Surviving Winter in Your Boston Home or Condominium

Winter is in full swing once again here in the Boston area. What are your favorite winter activities? We want to share some tips for staying warm, healthy and happy this winter in your home, apartment or condo. Choose one or try them all! Hopefully they can make your winter a little more joyous.

How to Stay Warm

The average low temperature in Boston for winter months is easily below freezing, so staying warm can be a challenge. Before you crank up the heat, check to ensure that the cold air is staying outside where it should be. This is best done with energy efficient (and non-draft-prone) windows and doors. See about refitting your home’s windows and doors if you are falling victim to drafts – these will cost you money year-round, cooling your home in the winter and heating it in the summer.

Do you have a programmable thermostat? Setting it to 68 degrees will heat your home while also conserving energy, according to ready.gov. Make sure to lower it by 10 or more degrees at night, though, to save approximately 10% on your heating bill. Also see if you can close the heat vent and shut the door to any unused rooms in your home or condo to cut your heating costs even further. It is also prudent to ensure that you have a back-up heat source in case of a power loss.

How to Stay Healthy

During the winter, more people stay indoors, and this means an increased number of germs in your home, apartment, or condo. Stay healthy by getting a flu shot if you can, and by washing your hands often. Also, regularly disinfect the surfaces of your home that are touched often. Just in case someone in your household falls ill, have the necessary medical supplies on hand so that you don’t have to make a rushed trip to the pharmacy.

Staying healthy in the winter also means finding the opportunity to exercise. Not many people want to go for an outdoor jog in the middle of winter in Boston, but there are plenty of alternatives that will keep you fit until the warm weather returns. Many people will choose to exercise at their local gym, where cardio and weight equipment are available year-round. Some gyms in the area also offer indoor pools and/or fitness classes that can keep your exercise routine fresh and new. There are also plenty of options available for people that would rather exercise at home, and you don’t have to spend a lot of money on expensive equipment.

If you would rather continue to get your exercise out in the fresh air, choose an appropriate wintertime activity. Ice skating can be a great cardio workout, you can also try something more off-the-wall, like cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. Just make sure that you are dressed appropriately, and that you take plenty of breaks from the cold and that you stay hydrated as you work out outside.

How to Stay Happy

As we mentioned, the cold weather of the winter often means spending more time indoors. For some people this can lead to wintertime blues and boredom. Instead of being unhappy that you must spend so much time inside, try to be thankful for the extra time in your cozy home. Get your family together to play a board game, binge watch a tv show that looks interesting, cook up a new recipe, or check something off your reading list.

Need to get out of the house? You’re in luck! There are lots of activities in the Boston area in the winter, so you don’t need to feel like you’re cooped up – even when the city is blanketed in snow! Family activities are especially popular this time of year, including the Holiday Bricktacular at Legoland Discovery Center, Santa Saturdays at the Franklin Park Zoo, and Snowmazing! at the Boston Children’s Museum, among many others.

A few more favorites from the agents here at Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency include seeing The Nutcracker at the Boston Ballet, catching a Holiday Pops performance at the Boston Symphony Hall, and seeing the Christmas trees at Faneuil Hall and the Boston Common. There are plenty of events happening in the area, so bundle up and have some fun out in the city to ward off the boredom often brought by the cold weather.

We also want to make sure that you know that Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency is here for all your home, renters, and condo insurance needs this winter (and all year-round). If you want to have a chat about your current insurance policies, or if you have an insurance question, all you have to do is call us at 617-298-0655. One of our friendly and knowledgeable agents will be happy to take care of you!

A Guide to Bicycle Safety and Insurance

Can you feel Spring in the air? When the weather starts to get warmer, people here in Massachusetts can’t wait to get outside and enjoy the fresh air. One spectacular way to do so (while also getting some exercise) is to use a bicycle.

The Increasing Popularity of Bicycles

With the increase in environmental protection and a focus on being healthier, it’s only natural that we would see another “bike boom” here in the US. In the Spring of 2017, it was estimated that there were nearly 70 million bicyclists in the US.

This trend is also seeing an increase due to the emergence of bike sharing services. In Boston, you can rent a Hubway bike for $8 a day or get an annual pass for only $99! Their app will let you know where there is a hub near you.

Safety Tips for Riding

Even the most experienced riders can use a reminder of how to be safe while on a bicycle. Here are some tips for putting safety first:

  • Ride a bike that fits you. Bikes come in all shapes and sizes, so take the time to find one that fits – this will depend on the measurements of both you and the bicycle.
  • Your bike should be ready before you take it anywhere – even just on a quick spin. Take a look to make sure that all parts of the bike are secure and working well.
  • Ensure that you are visible, especially at night. You may wish to purchase accessories for your bike or clothing that is reflective.
  • You should be able to hear your surroundings when you’re riding, so avoid wearing headphones when you cycle. This will make it easier to stay vigilant while you ride and avoid accidents with pedestrians, vehicles, or other cyclists.
  • Last but certainly not least, you should know the rules of the road. When using streets, bicycles are considered vehicles, so look up the Massachusetts rules of riding before your foot ever hits a pedal.

If you know anyone that rides (whether they are a beginner or an advanced bicyclist), share this post with them. You never know who might learn something new!

When You’re Not Riding

Bicycles and their accessories are expensive, so make sure that you take care of your bike even when you’re not riding it.

  • Always keep your bike secure. If you take your bike out for errands or to your workplace, lock it up. As the saying goes, ‘It’s better to be safe than sorry!’
  • Vary the location where you lock up your bike so that you’re not targeted be thieves.
  • When you lock up your bike, make sure you secure it to a fixed, immobile object. It’s also important that you check to make sure that your bike and lock can’t be lifted up and off of the object.
  • The type of lock that you use for you bike is important – there are many good options on the market, but U-locks are generally regarded as the safest option. Lock your bike up high (too low and it’s easy for a thief to break the lock) and always lock to the frame – never to a wheel.

On the off chance your bike is stolen, make sure that you have a picture of the bicycle to aid in the search when you report it as stolen to the police. It helps if you have your name and contact information etched into an inconspicuous location on the bike for proof of ownership. Also consider adding your bike to the National Bike Registry.

Properly Insure Your Cycle

Ok, we’ll admit it – there is not a product called ‘bicycle insurance’ like there is auto insurance or motorcycle insurance, but a bicycle is still a valuable and potentially dangerous object. There are two things you should make sure to properly insure: yourself, and your bike.

First, make sure that your cycle (and all of its upgrades and accessories) are listed in your home inventory. A home inventory is the only way to guarantee that you have a comprehensive list of your belongings in the event of a total loss, and it can be invaluable if you ever need to file a home insurance claim. Owners of particularly expensive bicycles should consider an endorsement for complete coverage.

Second, you need to make sure that you are covered in case of a bicycle accident. If you get sued because you injure someone in a bicycle accident, there should be liability coverage in your homeowner’s insurance or renter’s insurance that will cover you.

To find out more if your insurance policies are ready for your bicycling journeys, talk to your Massachusetts insurance agent at Vargas and Vargas Insurance – just call 617-298-0655. We can review your home insurance to cover your bike and check your liability protection. Make sure to mention to your agent if you’re going to be riding your bike instead of driving your car when you run errands or to commute to work, because less driving could mean a reduction in your auto insurance premium.

What Is Liability Coverage, and Why Do You Need It?

When talking about insurance, there are many ‘buzzwords’ used that many people don’t know the meaning of. One example of this type of term is ‘liability’ – many policies have liability protection built in, but do you know precisely what it is that this type of coverage protects you from?

This is a quick guide on Massachusetts liability insurance, including the definition of the coverage, explanations of the liability coverage you probably already have as a part of your current insurance products, and an easy way to get added liability protection.

What is Liability Insurance?

Liability insurance is the critical coverage that offers financial protection if you are sued or held legally liable for damages to another person, such as property damage, injury or negligence.

Let’s face it; we live in a litigious society where getting sued is more a right of passage than something that will never happen to you. What’s more is that being involved in a lawsuit is expensive. No one wants to have an unexpected outlay of that much cash, thankfully that’s what insurance is for! Liability protection will ensure that being involved in a lawsuit doesn’t ruin your financial future.

Depending on the details of your policy, liability insurance will often cover legal costs, and will also cover restitution including damages and/or the injured party’s medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, or death benefits.

Home Insurance and Renter’s Insurance Liability Coverage

When thinking of the coverage offered by a renter’s or home insurance policy, most people will immediately jump to coverage offered to fix things that are broken or damaged – but that’s not all that these policies include!

Home and Renter’s insurance often also includes liability coverage to protect against injury and damage to others in your home for which you are held liable. For example, this usually includes situations where someone falls or otherwise injures themselves on your property.

Massachusetts Auto Insurance Liability Coverage

Most states (including Massachusetts) require that a driver have a certain minimum amount of auto insurance coverage. This is to ensure that you will be covered if you are involved in an accident.

In Massachusetts, there are four required types of coverage when purchasing auto insurance:

  • Bodily Injury to others: $20,000 per person, $40,000 per accident
  • Personal Injury Protection (PIP): $8,000 per person, per accident
  • Bodily Injury Caused by an Uninsured Auto: $20,000 per person, $40,000 per accident
  • Damage to Someone Else’s Property: $5,000 per accident

Some of this coverage is to ensure that you are able to cover medical bills and property damage to another party if they are involved in an accident that is legally deemed to be ‘your fault.’ While we certainly never plan to be involved in an accident, it’s impossible to know when one will occur. More so, we don’t know whether our next accident will be a small fender bender or something more serious – that’s why the agents at Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency often recommend that you carry more auto insurance protection than what is required by the state of Massachusetts.

Commercial Liability Insurance in Massachusetts

Businesses have a lot of moving parts. Whether you own a big or small business in Massachusetts, there is a potential that you will be held liable for damages by an employee, or even a customer. Thankfully, your business insurance will have built-in liability coverage for these situations as a part of your business insurance policy.

When speaking to your commercial insurance agent, make sure to ask about additional types of liability protection that your business may need, including EPLI, Product Liability Insurance, Indemnity Insurance, Directors and Officers (D&O) Liability Insurance, Errors and Omissions (E&O) Insurance, Cyber Liability and Data Breach, and more.

Get Umbrella Coverage for “Above and Beyond” Protection

So, how much liability protection do you need? There is no right answer, but the expert insurance agents here at Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency agree: there’s no such thing as too much liability coverage. Thankfully, there’s an easy way to get this protection without increasing the coverage on each of your policies: get an umbrella insurance policy.

As discussed above, most policies have a liability component. The truth is that these are limited by the dollar amount set in the policy. Thankfully, umbrella insurance offers extra coverage that is very affordable. It offers a liability ‘umbrella’ on top of all of your existing policies. This means that if your costs or damages go above the original insurance policy’s limit, your umbrella coverage will kick in and ensure that you have added protection. This type of policy is available for both individuals and businesses, and the added protection is well worth the cost.

To talk to an experienced Massachusetts insurance agent about your liability protection, and to find out about our great deals on umbrella insurance policies, just call Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency at 617-298-0655. We can get you a free umbrella insurance quote, or let you know where your liability coverage could use a little padding to ensure that your family or business is financially secure.

Does Renter’s Insurance Cover Weather-Related Damage?

Renters’ insurance is an important protection to have, even if you feel that you don’t need it! The coverage provided by renters’ insurance can vary from policy to policy, and it is important that clients thoroughly review what is and is not covered by their renters’ insurance. Renters are often surprised to learn that their apartment and belongings are not included in the coverage provided by their landlord’s policy.

Your Landlord’s Policy

Landlords, typically, only cover the actual building from damage, and it is likely that damage to your belongings will not be covered by the building owner’s coverage that will pay to replace or repair a leaky roof. However, most renters’ policies will reimburse you for the cost of having to temporarily relocate from an uninhabitable residence that has sustained covered damage. The agents at Vargas & Vargas Insurance are here to help determine the coverage you need to protect yourself from damage to your rental unit in the greater Dorchester, MA area.

Weather Incidents

Weather-related damage can be caused by excessive wind, hail, lightning strikes, and other acts of nature. There are ways to protect your rental home or apartment, and your belongings, should you suffer a loss due to the weather. It may be necessary to purchase additional coverage if your renter’s policy does not provide adequate protection, and the professional agents at Vargas & Vargas Insurance are here to help you through the process.

If you are in need of comprehensive renter’s insurance that includes protection from weather-related damage, please call us today, we are dedicated to meeting the needs of our clients in the greater Dorchester, MA area.

Snow Safety: A Complete Guide

Now that the New Year has arrived, we must face the fact that the snow isn’t going away any time soon. For the next few months, you need to make sure that you and your loved ones stay safe in the frigid Massachusetts temperatures. Here are links to a few blogs that we’ve posted over the years that can help make sure of that:

  • Prepare for Winter Storms – We see a few major storms every winter here in the Boston area. When one threatens, make sure that you are prepared by following these guidelines.
  • How to Shovel Snow Safely – Shoveling snow isn’t a coveted task, but if you get stuck with the chore make sure you perform it safely with these tips.
  • Tips for Driving in the Snow – You’ve probably got plenty of practice driving in the ‘white stuff,’ but there’s no harm in a little refresher. Brush up now, and forward the link along to a new driver you know!
  • The Potential Dangers of Melting Snow – It always seems like the snow will stick around forever, but one day the temperatures will warm up enough to start the yearly melt. Be ready for the risks of melting snow with a flood insurance policy.

And there’s one more bonus blog for you in this guide – Free Activities for Snow Days! There are days where snowfall and freezing temperatures make going to work (and school) impossible, so make sure that your family has a plan for the inevitable upcoming snow days.

Here’s the bottom line. Be safe in the snow, and make sure that you have the right Massachusetts insurance policies in place just in case you have to make a claim. To check on your home or renters insurance, auto insurance, and flood insurance policies, just call Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency at 617-298-0655.

Ensure that Your Jewelry is Covered

Everybody loves a little bit of bling. Whether your passion is precious metals, gemstones, hand crafted statement pieces, or any of the other dozens of types of jewelry out there, you need to make sure that your valuable items are properly covered – just in case. Thankfully, there are two coverages for your valuable jewelry, general coverage that comes with home and renter’s insurance, and jewelry riders for additional protection.

General jewelry coverage is a part of almost every home insurance and renter’s insurance policy that we offer here at Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency. This will cover most casual, everyday jewelry. Check with your insurance agent to make sure that you have this basic coverage, and see how much coverage it offers.

If you have valuable items, you may want to check your insurance policy’s coverage offered for theft and mysterious disappearance. There is often a limit on the general coverage that may be less than some of your more valuable items, like a family heirloom or your engagement and wedding rings. For these cases, you may want to inquire about adding protection in the form of a jewelry rider on to your existing insurance policy.

To speak to an experienced insurance professional, call Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency at 617-298-0655. One of our agents can tell you if you have enough coverage, and will help you add a jewelry rider to your existing insurance policies if you need some extra protection. These are typically very inexpensive, and are well worth the coverage they offer. So, don’t let your jewelry go uninsured or underinsured any longer – call us today!

Space Saving Tips for Your Home or Apartment

 

When you’re looking to live in Boston, you can find it all – minimalistic or ornate, compact or spacious. If you are living somewhere more compact and need to make the most of the space you have, here are a few tools that you can use to increase your storage:

Curtain Rods

Thinking of a curtain rod probably evokes images of window treatments and shower liners. But there are so many more uses for these versatile objects! Use a small tension rod in your under-the-sink cabinet for spray bottle storage. A longer tension rod can create a dust ruffle on some beds, leaving room for under-the-bed storage. Ribbons spools can be threaded onto a rod for a gift-wrapping station during the holidays. The possibilities are endless!

Extra Shelves

When you’re short on space, never miss an opportunity for a shelf. And get creative with where you place extra shelves – bookshelves in the den or living area are good, but putting small shelves in your cabinets will take your storage game to the next level!

Furniture with Storage

Nowadays, there are nearly limitless options for furniture that include storage. Inside the ottoman is a great place for blankets and pillows, under-the-bed storage would be perfect for all those clothes that aren’t in season. And don’t forget about over-the-toilet cabinets for toiletries and more.

To make sure that all of the items that you store are protected, call Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency at 617-298-0655 for a renter’s insurance or home insurance quote.

Three Reasons Why You Need Renters Insurance

You would never drive a car without auto insurance, and you should never rent an apartment or a home without the proper renters insurance policy. Here are three reasons why you and your loved ones that rent their living space should make sure that they are always covered by a Massachusetts renters insurance policy:

1. You shouldn’t rely on your landlord for coverage.

Some people believe that their landlord’s insurance will cover them. While it is true that landlords do have insurance, it is a special type of policy that only covers their belongings – typically the structure of the building and any appliances that they own and lend out with the unit (like ovens and refrigerators).

2. Your belongings are probably more valuable than you think.

It’s easy to think at first that your belongings aren’t all that valuable, but think again! If there was a fire, for example, and you lost everything, you would probably spend hundreds of dollars replacing just your clothing – let alone your furniture and electronics.

3. It’s about more than just your possessions.

Renters insurance provides many types of protection. It will cover the replacement cost of your stuff, as discussed above, but it will also cover you for accidents that could occur. For example, most policies will provide coverage if you break a neighbor’s furniture, or if someone sustains an injury tripping on an unsecured rug in your apartment.

If you want to speak to a knowledgeable Massachusetts insurance agent about getting a renters insurance quote, just call 617-298-0655. And at Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency, we also offer special insurance for people in condos and townhomes. Don’t go unprotected any longer – call our agency for a free insurance quote today.

Planning Your Patriots Super Bowl Party

The New England Patriots have done it again – our boys will soon be on their way to Houston to play in the Big Game! Now that we know the lineup, it’s time to start planning a watch party with a red, white, and blue theme (my apologies to anyone from Atlanta).

If you’re going to have anyone over to watch the game on February 5th, make sure that you consider these party planning and safety tips from your friends at Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency:

  • Ask your guests ahead of time if they have any food allergies, and plan your menu accordingly.
  • Before anyone arrives, move valuable and breakable objects to a room that isn’t a part of the festivities. If any of your belongings (or a part of your home) is damaged during the party, call your local insurance agent to start a home insurance claim!
  • Make sure that everything is safe for your guests – you don’t want any hazards around the house, like an icy sidewalk or rug that could be tripped over.
  • If you are serving alcohol, make sure that all partygoers have a designated driver, and don’t let anyone get too impaired.
  • If you’re going to be frying any of your party foods, keep guests (especially children) away from the fryer and out of the kitchen.

Have a great party, and make sure to show your Patriots pride on the Vargas and Vargas Insurance Facebook Page! We want to see how you are rooting for the team! And remember – to make sure that you are fully prepared for any house party, call for a free home insurance review at 617-298-0655.

Resolutions for You and Your Home Insurance

It’s almost the start of a new year, and that can only mean one thing – it’s time to start focusing on your goals and resolutions! If you’re looking for a resolution for the New Year, consider one of the following. They will not only improve your life but could also help you save money on your Massachusetts home insurance policy!

Get Organized – One popular resolution that people make for a new year is to get more organized. Whether you’re planning on cleaning your home from top to bottom, or even paring down some of your stuff, now would be a great time to update (or start) a home inventory! Having an up-to-date list of your valuables can be a huge help if you ever need to make a home insurance claim.

Quit Smoking – Getting healthy is a big goal for people when new year rolls around, and ‘Quit Smoking’ is on a lot of resolution lists. Did you know, though, that quitting could also save on your home insurance? Some insurance providers offer a discount if no one in the home smokes!

Go Green – If you’re aiming to do your part to help the planet this coming year, your insurance agent could help you! In some cases, eco-friendly and energy efficient appliances could reduce your home insurance premiums.

Save Money – There are lots of ways that you can save money. In addition to monitoring your spending and creating a budget, consider calling your home insurance agent or automobile insurance agent and asking what you could do to lower your insurance payment. We have several suggestions on how to make a big difference on your premium’s bottom line.