Should You Buy Renters Insurance Through Your Property Manager or Leasing Agent?

Should You Buy Renters Insurance Through Your Property Manager or Leasing Agent?

As more large investment firms and professional property management companies get involved in rental properties, more are requiring tenants to secure renters’ insurance. Some have gone so far as to “suggest” or “recommend” a provider. The question is, should you get your renters’ insurance through your property manager? Are there any benefits to doing so?

Convenience

Clicking on a button on your leasing agent or property manager’s website to secure renters’ insurance may seem to be simple and convenient. But there may be a price to pay for that convenience. You may not get the coverage you deserve at a price that is comfortable for your budget. There are reasons you should secure renters’ insurance on your own.

Shopping for your own renters’ insurance policy keeps you in control. You decide the limits, coverage, and deductibles. You will also likely have more options to suit your budget.

When you make the decision on your renters’ insurance, you may qualify for a bundle discount with your auto insurance provider.

When you purchase your renters’ insurance individually, you are purchasing protection that works for you, not just your current landlord or property manager. This includes a variety of add-ons to cover personal electronic devices, coverage while traveling, and liability.

If you rent where you live, renters’ insurance is a good idea to protect your personal belongings and cover you for liability claims. Perhaps best of all, renters’ insurance is very affordable. We invite you to see just how affordable it can be for yourself.

If you are looking at renters’ insurance options, we encourage you to reach out to one of our independent insurance agents. They will connect with a network of companies to get you the coverage you deserve at a premium you can feel comfortable with. Securing renters’ insurance is prudent, but getting it through your landlord or property manager may not be. Contact our independent agents today.

Five Factors Influencing Home Insurance Rates

Five Factors Influencing Home Insurance Rates

Taking the mystery out of homeowners’ insurance can start with understanding the factors that impact home insurance rates. If you’ve ever wondered why your cousin Bob pays less for home insurance than you do, it could have to do with one or more of these five factors.

Property Location

A major factor affecting home insurance rates is the location of the home. Not just the neighborhood, but the terrain and risks of natural disasters. Rates may also be impacted by the proximity of the nearest fire department and even fire hydrants.

Price, Value, Replacement Costs

The cost of your home and what it would cost to replace it in a total loss plays a large role in the rates one pays. This value can be impacted by square footage, building materials, features, and amenities as well as where it is located.

Coverage Limits

Generally speaking, the higher your coverage limits, the more home insurance will cost. This includes structures, contents, and liability coverage. An independent insurance agent can help you determine what a reasonable amount of coverage for your situation is.

Deductible

Your home insurance deductible amount is the amount of money you pay out of pocket for a covered loss before your insurance policy proceeds kick in. The larger the deductible, the lower the premiums may be.

Age and Condition

As construction techniques and building codes have improved, so has the general safety of homes. This is why it can be cheaper to insure a new home than a vintage one. Older homes can have older plumbing, out-of-date wiring, and roofs that may soon need replacement. Some properties may be uninsurable unless some basic improvements are made.

While insurance companies use similar factors in determining rates, the weight they place on each factor can be different. This is why it is important to compare when shopping for home insurance. Our independent insurance agents can assist you. They can reach out to a number of companies to find the coverage and premium you are comfortable with. Contact us today to get started.

Flood Insurance FAQs

Flood Insurance FAQs

Floods are the most common of all natural disasters. Yet, there are quite a few myths and mysteries surrounding flood insurance. Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about this critical protection.

Is Flood Insurance Just for Homeowners?

Not at all. While homeowners definitely should seriously consider flood insurance, renters and business owners should also look into the coverage.

Is Flood Insurance a Part of a Basic Property Insurance Policy?

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is administered by FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Administration), which makes protection available through licensed insurance agents. Since it is separate coverage, it is not included under a standard homeowners’ insurance policy, renters’ insurance policy, or business insurance.

Why aren’t floods covered under a standard homeowners insurance policy?

Flooding is a gradual event rather than a sudden one. That is why many flood insurance policies must be purchased up to 30 days in advance of their taking effect.

What is considered a flood?

One simple description is that flood waters are those that have touched the ground before entering a home.

Should Only Those in High Risk Flood Zones Acquire Flood Insurance?

Flooding can occur almost anywhere. In fact, about 25% of flood insurance claims annually come from outside of high-risk flood zones.

Do Flood Risks Change?

Yes. Due to road construction, building developments, and even climate change, flood risks can change. You may be in a higher-risk area than when you first moved in. You can check area flood zone maps for updated data. These changes are a good reason to have a home insurance review annually.

Is Flood Insurance Expensive?

Rates are based on risks. The higher risk flood zone a property is located the higher premiums will likely be.

If you are interested in learning more about flood insurance and its benefits, contact one of our independent home insurance agents. They can help determine your risks and get you a quote for your coverage. Contact us today to get started.

Whatever Happened to the “Starter Home”?

Whatever Happened to the “Starter Home”?

It was once an exciting time for young couples. The time when they had saved enough for a down-payment on their first home. For many, this was what was known as a “starter home,” a house with training wheels, so to speak, to get a couple up and running in home ownership.

Starter homes were often undersized, perhaps in a little less than desirable neighborhoods, and would often require work, sometimes LOTS of it. But after a few years of putting in some sweat-equity, making payments, and improving the value of that starter home, it could be sold with the equity, launching the couple into their more permanent second home.

Friends and relatives knew when a couple bought a starter home and would often pitch in to help. It was viewed as a temporary stop along life’s journey.

Today, however, fewer people are looking for a starter home. They are more likely looking for a home that is ready to move in and needs little work or even maintenance. What happened to the “Starter Home”?

There are Fewer “Young Couples”

First time home buyers used to be in their early 20s. Today, they are more likely to be in their late 20s or even early 30s.

Millennials and Younger Don’t Enjoy Working on Their Homes

At least not to the level of their parents or grandparents. They want homes that are ready to move into and are preferably new enough to need little work.

Homebuilders Have Made Buying a Home Like Buying a Car

Developers and homebuilders have made it simple to buy a new home. Small down payments, extended and flexible payment plans, and even inclusive community maintenance make the process more streamlined than it once was. It can take more effort to buy a home for $175,000 from a private buyer than a $350,000 brand-new home in a new community.

Many young buyers have taken a “why wait” attitude when buying. Why go through all of the time, work, and hassle of a starter home when they can skip that step? They may have a point.

A benefit of buying a new home as opposed to a starter home is that home insurance premiums are usually lower. New homes are up to code, have new wiring and plumbing, and are built better to withstand storms. This is another benefit.

Before you make a decision on your homeowners’ insurance, we encourage you to contact us for a no-obligation price quote. Be as smart about your home insurance as you are about buying a home. Contact us today.

Are Trees On Your Property an Asset or a Liability?

Are Trees On Your Property an Asset or a Liability?

When considering a new home, many families will weigh the various positive and negative features of that home and property. If yours is a young family living near schools, it can be a plus. For an older couple, however, it may be undesirable. What about trees?

Trees are often touted romantically in real estate descriptions. Homes along “tree-lined streets” sound appealing, as do “stately, mature trees”. Trees are generally thought to be a positive for homeownership. But for every positive, there can be drawbacks.

Trees Add Beauty

Well-maintained, well-placed trees add an attractive landscaping element to a property. They seem to provide a more natural, welcoming ambiance to a home.

They Create Maintenance Issues

It may seem like trees are maintenance free, but they are not. They need to be trimmed and occasionally shaped, and limbs need to be kept away from homes so they don’t provide a clear path for insects and varmints. Don’t forget about raking, which, depending on the number of trees on a property, can be a significant amount of work.

Trees Can Provide Shade

This valuable shade can make outdoor living more enjoyable, help save on energy costs, and even slightly extend the life of asphalt shingles.

Trees Can Be Dangerous

Older, poorly maintained trees can be particularly problematic. Limbs can snap and fall during high winds, ice storms, and even heavy rain. Severe storms may completely free a tree, especially if the ground has been saturated. If a tree on your property is the tallest point in the area, it could attract lightning. Falling trees and limbs can damage homes, cars, fences, outbuildings, and even bring down power lines.

In spite of some of the more worrisome aspects, trees are environmentally valuable, beautiful, and, when properly maintained, considered an asset in real estate. In fact, real estate professionals say that trees can add anywhere from 3 to 15% to the value of a property.

Trees on a property are also another good reason to make sure your home insurance is sufficient and up-to-date. If it has been longer than you remember since you’ve had a homeowners’ insurance review or even gotten a price quote, our independent home insurance agents can provide assistance. Contact us today to get started.

7 Things to Rid Your Home of NOW

7 Things to Rid Your Home of NOW

There’s an interesting thing that happens if you decide to sell your home. You immediately look at the things that you were okay living with but now must upgrade before you sell.

Whether you are considering selling or not, here are some things about your home you should immediately consider changing.

An HVAC System That’s Over 20 Years Old

You may be counting your blessings if you have a heating and air conditioning system that has provided you with over 20 years of service. In reality, it may actually be costing you money each month. Older HVAC units are very inefficient and use far more power than today’s models. It is believed that 80% of your energy bill goes to powering your HVAC. Maybe it is time to be proactive.

That Old Refrigerator in the Garage

Garages across America have old, sometimes very old, refrigerators in their garages that used to serve as their kitchen refrigerator. There are two big problems here. Old refrigerators are very inefficient and may cost you $50 or more monthly just to operate. The fact that these refrigerators are operating in hot, non-air-conditioned garages doesn’t help. You may be better off buying a small apartment-size refrigerator instead.

1970s Style Ceiling Fans

Ceiling fans are terrific. If, however, you have ceiling fans from the 1970s in rooms in your home, it’s time to upgrade. Modern fans look better and are more efficient, and they are also an affordable way to upgrade a room or two or three.

Fluorescent Tube Lighting

Fluorescent tube lighting is no longer acceptable in garages and basements, and certainly not in kitchens or bathrooms. Modern LED lighting looks SO much better, offers better lighting and is far more energy efficient. You don’t have to worry about those big old tubes that don’t seem to match and flicker too often.

Ungrounded Wall Sockets

If you are using three to two-prong adapters anywhere in your home, it is time for an upgrade. If your home is old enough to have ungrounded sockets, it may have other wiring concerns as well, including an outdated fuse box or power panel. Call an electrician.

Half-Empty Paint Cans

Don’t be ashamed. You are not alone. But at some point, you need to recognize that a five-year-old, quarter gallon of paint is not going to provide value. Store paint colors in a file on your phone and contact your community for proper disposal techniques.

Single Pane Windows

Like replacing an outdated HVAC system, new windows and doors won’t be inexpensive but can pay in energy savings, added value to your home, better security, and even a quieter home. If you have older 1970s and 1980s style single-pane windows, start doing some research.

Keeping up with a home is not easy. Keeping your home insurance updated is. Contact one of our independent home insurance specialists for a free insurance review and price quote.

Let’s Focus On Outside Living

Let’s Focus On Outside Living

It is reasonable to expect that you think about the cost of spending far more time inside and thinking about the interior of your homes than the outside. Upgrades to kitchens and baths are far more common than exterior upgrades. There’s a lot that can be done, however, when you focus on outside living.

Creating an Outside Room

A place where many start improving their outside life is by creating an outside room or defined space or spaces. This could include a sunroom, a cement patio, wood or composite decking, or other options. This depends on how you intend to use the space, be it for dining, entertaining, grilling out, or family gatherings.

Landscaping

Landscaping is the decorating of your outside space. Trees, bushes, flowers, mulch, pavers, and more add to the aesthetic appeal of the space. The decision to landscape and how much should be done can depend on your own skills, budget, and personal tastes. Generally speaking, landscaping outside space provides significant value.

Furnishings

Choosing quality outdoor furniture that fits your lifestyle is crucial in creating an outdoor space you and your family will fully enjoy. Imagine how you view your space being used and choose furnishings that can fulfill that vision.

Focal Point

Depending on the space available, you may want to consider adding a visual focal point to your backyard. It may be a bench, a birdbath, a rock garden, a small pond, a fountain, or even a gazebo.

Other Features

There are more conveniences and comforts available for outside space than ever before. Modern outdoor propane heaters, shelters and shades, umbrellas, propane fire pits and more. If you have the budget, you can even construct an entire outdoor kitchen.

Lighting

To fully enjoy your outdoor space, you’ll want to maximize the time it can be used. This can bring some modern, efficient lighting to accent and illuminate your space. From ground level garden lighting to hanging lights and flood and spotlights, lighting can extend the use of your space.

If you wish to enjoy your home more, make better use of your outdoor space. Your efforts may pay you back several times over.

Part of your mission as a homeowner is not only to improve your property but to protect it. This includes making sure your homeowners’ insurance is sufficient and up-to-date. Our team of independent insurance agents can review your coverage and provide an updated price quote. Get the peace of mind you deserve with a home insurance review. Connect with us to get started today.

Why Your Neighbor May Be Paying More (Or Less) Than You Are for Home Insurance

Why Your Neighbor May Be Paying More (Or Less) Than You Are for Home Insurance

You and your neighbor may chat about what’s going on in the neighborhood, the latest streaming shows to binge on, or your favorite sports teams, but the odds aren’t good if you are discussing your home insurance.

In fact, it is almost hard to imagine.

“Hey Bob, how’s your homeowners’ insurance?”

“Good Steve. I guess. I don’t give it much thought.”

“Me neither.. In fact, I haven’t thought about it since we bought the place seven years ago.”

“Huh, you’re right. I don’t even know how much I am paying. It is all included in my mortgage payment along with the taxes and stuff.”

“Steve, do you think you’re covered for flooding?”

“Dunno, Bob. I guess we’ll worry about it if something happens.”

“Yeah, you’re right. Hey, have you seen that latest series on Netflix?”

So it goes. We purchase homeowners’ insurance and bundle payments to be paid automatically and never give it another thought. That is, until we might have a claim.

Isn’t it better to know what you have, how much you are paying, and whether your coverage is adequate? Of course it is.

Look, you and your neighbor may have trouble comparing rates. Your homes may be of different ages, different square feet, and may be constructed of differing materials. Your deductibles may be different and you may have a dog or pool that could impact rates. You and your neighbor may be paying far different premiums for your home insurance, but at least you should know how much you are paying and the limitations of your coverage.

If you are in the dark about your homeowners insurance, contact one of our independent insurance agents for a home insurance review and price quote. There is absolutely no obligation, and you can finally take control of your home insurance premiums. You may even be able to recommend that your neighbor do the same thing.

Contact us to get started today.

4 of the Cheapest Ways to Improve Your Home

4 of the Cheapest Ways to Improve Your Home

Willing to put a little sweat equity into improving your home while staying on a budget? Want to make a big impact without spending big bucks? Here are four ways to make significant improvements to your home without having to take a second mortgage.

Paint

Dollar for dollar, there may be no better way to make a difference in a room than through adding a fresh coat of paint. Whether you play it conservatively with browns and beiges or add a dramatic accent wall, paint may be the most cost-effective way to upgrade a room.

Landscape

If you don’t mind putting in a little elbow grease, take a fresh look at the exterior of your home. Expand a flower bed, add some colored mulch, or replace aged bushes with fresh editions. Perhaps add a small brick patio or walkway. Even some landscape lighting can add significantly to the appearance of your home for a small investment.

Upgrade Switches, Sockets and Lighting

Replacing electrical switches, sockets, and even lighting may be more do-able than you realize. Just pay attention to how the original devices were installed and replace them with the new items. Light dimmers, sockets with USB ports, and new LED and neon-style lighting can make life just a bit easier and more beautiful. Make sure all breakers are off when replacing these items and if you have any doubts, seek help.

A New Front Door

Your front door is the smile of your home and helps create its first impression. Studies have shown that a new steel or fiberglass front door can return close to 100% of its cost in additional value. It can also add to the security of your home. Consider going bold with a red door, signaling a welcoming attitude.

Imagine your home with a few rooms with a fresh coat of paint, some creative landscaping, a few new electronics and lighting, and a new secure front door. With a little work and a small investment, you can get it all in a very short time span.

Are you getting the most from your home insurance premium? How would you know if you didn’t compare? Connect with us for a no-obligation home insurance review and price quote. We look forward to assisting you.

7 Random (If Not Interesting) Facts About Home Insurance

7 Random (If Not Interesting) Facts About Home Insurance

Most don’t give their homeowners’ insurance policies much thought. In fact, that is part of the issue with home insurance policies. People get them, and then forget them. Here are some random, if not somewhat interesting, facts about home insurance.

Five Areas Account for Almost 80% of All Claims

Just five areas account for 77% of all claims on homeowners’ insurance policies. These include wind, non-weather-related water damage, hail, weather-related water damage, and theft.

How Many Claims are Filed Each Year?

Although exact figures are difficult to determine, it is estimated that out of approximately 70 million home insurance policies in force, about 3.5 insurance claims are filed annually, translating to about one in 20.

Liability Claims

About one in every 1,440 home insurance policies has a liability claim filed, resulting in financial payments for legal, medical, and property damage. Dog bites are the leading cause of liability claims, followed by home accidents, fallen trees, intoxicated guests, and domestic workers injured in the home.

Percentage of Homes with Homeowners Insurance

It is estimated that 85% of homes in America are insured by homeowners’ insurance. While the government doesn’t require it, most financial institutions make it a requirement to obtain a mortgage.

Tenants with Renters Insurance

In spite of its relatively low price, it is estimated that only about 44% of tenants have renters’ insurance.

Average Price of Home Insurance in the United States

The average price of home insurance in the U.S. is about $1,550 annually. This can vary dramatically, however, depending on factors like home value, coverage, location, deductibles, and more.

How Long Are Homeowners Insurance Policies in Force?

Home insurance policies are generally renewed each year. They will automatically renew if payments continue to be made. That’s why it is a good idea to have your policy reviewed by an independent agent each year while obtaining a price quote.

If you have questions about homeowners or renters’ insurance, we invite you to contact us. We can even assist you with a no-cost, no-obligation price quote. Contact us today to get started.