Hottest and Coldest Real Estate Markets Across the U.S.

The popularity of remote working and work from home opportunities have many people reconsidering where they call home. Not being tied to a specific location for work can provide a new sense of freedom and an opportunity to live where you prefer as opposed to where you are employed.

For some, this can be an opportunity to seek out the hottest, most popular places to live. For others, it may mean finding cheaper, less popular cities to live.

According to a variety of real estate and financial experts put together by Zillow, here are few of the hottest and five of the coldest real estate markets to call home.

WHAT’S HOT

Austin, Texas

Austin has been described as being the “un-most Texas city in the Lone Star State”. It is artistically and musically vibrant and has a diverse, youthful vibe.

Phoenix, Arizona

If superb weather is at the top of your list for your next home, it is hard to beat Phoenix. Temperatures are not only warm all year long but the city enjoy frequent clear skies. It is a modern city enjoying enormous growth.

Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville has an almost unbeatable reputation for having a vibrant, diverse economy, great schools, fun sports and affordable housing. Of course, it remains the capital of country music as well. Residents can still enjoy four seasons.

Tampa, Florida

Florida is booming and Tampa is near the top of the list. Live close to beaches, outdoor recreation, theme parks and more. Tampa has also enjoyed a wealth of success with its sports teams.

Atlanta, Georgia

Atlanta is a youthful city with a vibrant city center. While the city has an urban pulse, you can be in the middle of the country after just an hour drive. It still remains relatively affordable when compared to other major metros.

WHAT’S COLD

While people are making lifestyle moves to warmer weather markets, large, traditionally very expensive cities are cooling off. Traditionally hot markets that are cooling include:

  • New York City, New York
  • San Francisco, California
  • Los Angeles, California
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Boston, Massachusetts

Keep in mind, when it comes to some markets “cooling” means less hot.

No matter where you live, you should protect your assets with homeowners’ or renters insurance. Our independent insurance agents can help. Contact us to discuss your needs, conduct an insurance review and even get a no obligation quote.

We look forward to assisting you.

Does Your Homeowners’ Insurance Cover You If…

Too frequently homeowners aren’t sure whether a particular incident will be covered under their home’s insurance policy until they submit a claim. Of course, as the old expression goes, it is probably too late. How confident are you in your coverage? Would you be covered if…

Your dog bit a neighbor?

Most dog bites will be covered under the liability coverage of a homeowners’ insurance policy, but you’ll want to make sure your particular breed is covered and the insurance company knows you own a dog. Different states have varying rules about dogs, bites and how insurance handles this issue so check with your independent insurance to verify before such an incident occurs.

Your fence blew down in a storm?

Generally fences are considered an outbuilding and would be covered like any other unattached structure to your home. This means it likely will be covered if a storm blew down your fence.

Your coin collection was stolen?

Collections will be covered under most homeowners’ insurance policies at least up to the policy limits for such collections. Should you have an extremely valuable collection of coins or other collectibles, talk with your independent insurance agent about additional coverage.

Your son’s friend hurt himself on your trampoline?

You should first understand that most insurance policies will no longer provide coverage to homes with a backyard trampoline. Keeping your insurance company in the dark about trampoline ownership is a very bad idea considering that coverage will not be in force, and it may in fact lead to cancellation of your policy.

The food delivery person fell on the cracked walkway to your front door?

It can be a bit unsettling to realize you may be held liable should anyone be injured on your property. This includes lawn service people, pest control providers, pizza and food delivery personnel and even friends and neighbors. This is what, in part, makes homeowners insurance liability coverage so valuable. Not only will liability insurance cover your legal costs of a liability claim but will also pay any judgement or settlement that results.

Your home was flooded?

Flooding occurs in every state, yet most basic homeowners insurance policies do not provide coverage. Separate flood insurance must be secured. Contact your independent insurance agent to learn more.

A homeowners’ insurance review can help you discover the areas where your coverage may be lacking. The good news is that you can get a no cost, no obligation home insurance policy review and price quote. Not only may you uncover critical gaps in coverage, but you may even be able to save on your premiums. Contact one of our professionals today to get started!

Six Things to Know Before Getting Your First Dog

Are you considering adding a dog to your family? It is not a decision that should be made lightly. After all, adding a pet will likely change your, and their lives for years to come. Here are some basics you and your family should give some thought to before getting your first dog.

Breeds Matter

This may seem obvious, but many only consider the breed of the dog in terms of their appearance. You may think you want a certain dog because they are cute but the breed of a dog affects much, much more than their looks. It will impact how much attention they need, their temperament, their health and whether they are right for your lifestyle and living conditions. Research breeds based on the type of dog you will be compatible with, not on their “looks”.

Dog Size Impacts Lifespan

The larger the dog, the shorter it’s lifespan will likely be. Larger dogs also tend to have more physical and health issues than smaller dogs. This may not be a deciding factor in your choice, but it is worth considering

You Can Teach an Old Dog New Tricks….to a Degree

Getting a puppy is tempting because you can start with a clean slate. Plus puppies are just so darn cute. Don’t underestimate how trying and frustrating they can be, however, especially in the early stages. Adopting an older dog may be a better solution. Unless the dog is over 7 years old you will still likely be able to train them and teach them new tricks.

A Dog’s Behavior is Often tied to How They View Their Place in the Family

Dogs are pack animals are will find their place in your “pack” or family. If the view themselves as protectors they may bark at even the slightest of noises. Alpha-type dogs will often try to take more control in the house and pull on the leashes when being walked. It can be very beneficial to learn more about this pack mentality and how it impacts training when getting a first dog.

Start a Dog Saving Account

If you are inclined to add a dog to the family, start at least a small pet savings account. Pets can be more expensive than you realize, especially when it comes to shots, injuries and illness. Having money set aside specifically for your pet may help you avoid a very difficult decision should your pet require an expensive surgery or medical treatment in the future.

You should also be aware that adding a dog to the family could create an increase in your homeowners insurance rates. This may especially be true if a dog is considered an aggressive breed where you live. Contact one of our independent insurance agents to see how a pet you are considering may, or may not, impact your homeowners’ insurance rates.

Fear of Fire: How Flames Have Caused Destruction Across America

House fires cause significant damage across America each year. Annually, there are about 350,000 house fires causing over 2,600 deaths and creating over $7 billion in property damage. As significant as these numbers are, fires in residential housing is much less disastrous than they once were. In the 1800s, for example, when homes were largely made from wood and crowded closely together in major cities, even routine fires spread quickly, often burning entire city blocks at a time. This was a time when modern firefighting equipment was limited as were access to home telephones. Public call boxes were the main vehicle for notifying local fire departments of a problem.

Rural and forest fires were even more problematic as they frequently raged for a long period before even being noticed. Here are just a few of the devastating fires that devastated areas of America in the past.

The Peshtigo Fire

Frequently noted as one of the most significant fires ever in the United States, this forest fire started in Northeastern Wisconsin on October 8, 1871. It eventually reached parts of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It devoured 1.2 million acres and was responsible for more deaths than any other fire in history. It is estimated between 1,500 and 2,500 people died in the blaze. Incredibly, the fire occurred on the same day as the more famous Great Chicago Fire which, while significant, paled in comparison. The deaths that occurred as the result of the Peshtigo fire almost equal today’s annual fire-related death toll.

Great Fire of New York

This fire started on September 20, 1776, and burned until the next day. The fire took place on the west side and Lower Manhattan area in New York City and by the time it was extinguished it is estimated to have destroyed up to 25 percent of the buildings in the city. New York also experienced another “Great New York Fire” that occurred in 1835.

The San Francisco Fire

One of the most famous fires in American history was the result of the San Francisco earthquake in 1906. The earthquake and resulting fire took place on April 18 and not only created almost unimaginable damage but caused massive deaths. The loss of human life is estimated at between 700 and 3,000 or more from both the earthquake and fire.

Coverage for fire damage is an important part of your homeowners’ insurance coverage. If you are unsure of your overall coverage, contact us for a free homeowners’ insurance review. If you like, we can get you a no obligation quote. We look forward to assisting you.

America’s Castles

America’s castles have drawn so much interest that they were the subject of a documentary-style series on the A&E Network from 1994 to 2005. The series explored some of our most-unique structures across the country and what led to their construction. Some have been built in interesting and unusual locations. Here are a few.

Biltmore Estate, Asheville, North Carolina

Perhaps the most famous of America’s “castles” Biltmore is a mansion constructed over six years in the late 1800s. While the average American home may be 1500 to 1800 square feet, Biltmore boats over 175,000 square feet and is the largest privately owned home in the U.S.

The Boldt Castle, New York

This Alexandria Bay, New York castle was built by hotel magnate George Boldt for his wife. Using the craftsmanship of over 300 stonemasons and carpenters and imported Italian marble, Boldt began construction in 1900, but his wife did not live long enough to see its completion. Neither did Boldt. The castle remained incomplete until some 70 years later. Today it has been restored and its location on Heart Island in the 1,000 Lakes Region of New York makes it a perfect locale for weddings.

Hearst Castle, California

The Hearst Castle sits beautifully and proudly on a hill overlooking San Simeon, California. It was built over 28 years between 1919 and 1947 for newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst. Hearst Castle is actually 4 buildings built on 127 beautiful acres with lush terraced gardens. The castle has 165 rooms.

The Breakers, Rhode Island

Built by the legendary Vanderbilt family, in the late 19th century, The Breakers was constructed at a time when Newport Rhode Island was considered the coastal playground of America’s richest families. It was beautifully constructed and looks like it is right out of a storybook.

It is said a person’s home is their castle, so whether your “castle” is a 1500 square foot Cape Cod-style home or a 2200 square foot Victorian, insure it with sufficient homeowners’ insurance from one of our independent agents. Homeowners’ insurance can be the forgotten policies for homeowners, and that means your coverage may be outdated, overpriced, or you may even be underinsured. Contact us today your you home insurance review and price quote.

Making Your House More Toddler Safe

Adding a new member to the family is exciting and usually requires some big adjustments. There will be adjustments in sleep patterns, shopping lists will change dramatically and there will be a new, heighten awareness regarding the safety of your home. This is particularly true as babies begin to become more mobile and is a significant concern when they become toddlers. Falls, bumps and bruises may be inevitable, but here are some tips in making your home safer.

Secure or Eliminate Area Rugs

Area rugs can be a tripping hazard for those with little legs. Make sure they are either tacked down or put them away for a year until your child gets that walking thing down.

Use Gates and Fencing

Gates are invaluable in keeping toddlers away from steps and areas where they should not explore (like the cat’s litter box.) There is even indoor fencing to help you create a larger, but manageable, play area for toddlers.

Secure Outlets and Cabinets

Inexpensive plastic outlet plugs and covers can protect toddlers from electrical shocks. There are a variety of gadgets that can keep cabinet doors and drawers secure from curious toddlers.

Make Corners Safer

You don’t necessarily have to replace tables and other furniture to make them safer. There are cushioned products available that can be placed on the corners of tables and furniture edges. It may not stop the occasional bump or bruise, but it can minimize their impact.

Pay Attention to Pull-able, Climbable and Knock-Over-able Items

If it can be pulled down, knocked over or climbed upon, your toddler will be attracted to it. Watch out for table coverings, electrical and extension cords, potentially top heavy furniture and chairs and loose items on table and furniture tops.

Protecting your loved ones is a part of what you do. So should protecting your assets. Homeowners insurance can help you do just that. Homeowners’ insurance can help protect you from the negative financial impacts of storm damage, a fire, theft and vandalism. It can prevent the financial ramifications from a liability lawsuit or should a neighbor’s child be hurt while playing in your home or yard. It also has the side benefit of allowing you to sleep better at night.

Contact us for a no obligation homeowners insurance review and price quote. Why pay more than you need to for homeowners’ insurance? Connect with us today.

Cleaning Tips When Preparing to Sell a Home

When you make the decision to sell a home, it is the start of a series of events that at times can feel overwhelming. There are items to pack, repairs to be made, movers to hire and a host of prospective buyers to be prepared for. No matter how or who is selling your home, however, your home will likely need a good cleaning. When you view your home in its entirety, this too can be overwhelming. With that thought in mind, here are some thoughts to keep in mind when cleaning your house to be sold.

Divide and Conquer

Either create a plan to clean your home room by room or project by project. You might take on closets, windows and floors overall, or simply focus on one room at a time. If you have lots of carpeting, renting a shampooer and cleaning all the floors may be more efficient.

Don’t Just “Wash” Windows

Take the time to deep clean window panes and frames. If you are just cleaning the glass, you may be missing the mark. You can use a small brush or even an old toothbrush to clean into corners and tracks. While you are at it, use just a touch of lubricant to ensure windows open and close smoothly.

Clear out Closets

Most buyers want sufficient closet space, and crowded closets can give the wrong impression. Remove at least half of what is contained in your closets including clothes, shoes and what is on shelves.

Clear Out Cabinets and Drawers

Like closets, buyers want to feel like a home has plenty of cabinet and drawer space in the kitchen. Minimize clutter in these areas, including the pantry.

Don’t Forget Those Hidden Spots

Here’s where it gets a bit nasty. Deep cleaning will take moving and cleaning behind ovens and refrigerators. Move out your washer and dryer and clean behind and under. Don’t forget ceiling fans, the tops of doors and door jams, and the top of your water heater and refrigerator.

Consider a Professional Cleaning Service

If you are feeling overwhelmed, consider hiring a professional cleaning service to take care of it all! A team of professionals may be able to get done in two days what it may take you weeks to do!

Selling your home may lead to buying a new one. This is an opportunity for you to review and rejuvenate your homeowners insurance. Our independent professionals are more than willing to explain coverage for your new home and compare rates from a variety of companies. Buying a new home is the time to refresh your homeowners insurance coverage. Contact us when you are ready to buy.

FAQ’s About Renting a Car and Your Auto Insurance

You are standing at the rent-a-car counter when you are asked THE question. “Would you like our supplemental auto insurance on your vehicle?”

Well, do ya?

Here are some frequently asked questions about car insurance and rental cars.

Will my personal auto insurance cover my rental car?

Yes and maybe. Your personal car insurance will cover your rental car in the same manner as it covers your personal vehicle. If you have full, comprehensive/collision coverage on your personal vehicle, that will cover your rental. Keep in mind, if you only carry liability insurance, that is all you will have on your rental and will need additional coverage for full protection. You will also be responsible for any deductible on your present personal auto insurance. Rental car insurance from the rental company does not have a deductible.

I’ve heard my credit card may help. Is that right?

Perhaps. Many credit cards will offer supplemental insurance when renting a car. It is important to note that to qualify you’ll need to pay for the car rental with that particular credit card. You should contact your credit card company in advance or check its terms and conditions to verify coverage.

Is coverage from the rental car company expensive?

It certainly can be. On average, coverage purchased from a rental car company can reach $60 or more per day. In some cases, it may exceed the cost of renting the car.

Are my personal possessions covered in a rental car?

They likely will be if you have renters or homeowners’ insurance. There may be limits on very high-end electronics, however.

What about “Loss of Use” coverage?  

This coverage is usually not included in your standard auto policy. Auto policies may cover the physical damage to the rental vehicle. If it takes 8 weeks, however, for the damage sustained by the rental car to be fixed, you can be on the hook for 8 weeks of rental car fees, that car may have produced. This is included in the insurance from the rental car company. Always check with your current insurance company about loss of use coverage on your current policy.

What if I don’t own a personal car?

If you rent a car frequently but don’t own a personal car, purchasing “Non-owners auto insurance” can be a good idea. It will be less expensive than repeatedly buying the rental car company’s coverage and will also provide coverage in other situations like borrowing a car.

For something so widespread and significant as auto insurance, consumers are often not aware of what it does and doesn’t cover. That is why an auto insurance review can occasionally be helpful. Contact our independent auto insurance agents for a no cost, no obligation review and price quote. We look forward to assisting you.

Tips for Buying a Backyard Play Set for Your Kids

Traditional backyard swing sets have largely been replaced by more elaborate play sets, constructed of wood, ladders, plastic slides, monkey bars and play houses. Some of the more extensive play set combinations can cost into the thousands of dollars. This can be quite the investment, especially for the few fleeting years your child may enjoy it. There are some tips, however, to make sure your child’s experience is a safe one and you get the most value from your investment. Here are a few.

Choose Features Your Child Will Enjoy Today and Tomorrow

Leave room for your child to grow and his skills to improve. A play set should be fun but it should also improve their physical skills.

Select a Play Set Appropriate for the Available Space

Don’t allow your eyes to become bigger than your stomach when selecting a play set. The set should not overwhelm your space and children should be able to have sufficient space to fully enjoy it.

Choose and Prepare the Right Site

Select a level site preferably in some shade to set up the play set, keeping it away from outbuildings, fencing and concrete. The ground should be leveled and covered in a mulch or other product that lessens the impact of inevitable falls.

Get Skilled Help in Building the Play Set

Building a play set is not a one person job. Getting skilled help can be invaluable in making sure the set is set up safely and properly. Check all bolts are tightened after the set is completely assembled.

Check and Maintain the Set Regularly

Vibrations from use and temperature changes can loosen bolts over time. Wood can crack or splinter. Plastic can age and chip and crack. Be sure your child is safe by routinely performing maintenance checks on the play set. A properly maintained set will also last longer and keep its value.

Save Assembly Instructions

Eventually, you will want to sell or pass along your set. Having the original assemble instructions could be invaluable for whoever gets the set after your use.

Check with your homeowners’ insurance agent to notify them you have added a play set to your property. This will ensure you are properly covered in case of accident or injury. If it has been a while since you’ve had a homeowners’ insurance review, now may be a good time. Connect with us for a no obligation review and price quote.

 

Preventing Yourself From Becoming Insurance Poor

Insurance can play a significant role in protecting your physical and financial assets. We insure our cars, health, lives, businesses and homes. In some cases, we keep policies for years and years and once in awhile we may wonder if we are paying too much for it. How can you make sure you are not becoming “insurance poor”?

One of the best ways is to stay connected with your homeowners insurance policy. Your homeowners insurance can be a culprit in escalating insurance costs for several reasons.

Many homeowners’ policies have been in place for years or even decades. Frequently, homeowners purchased their policies when buying their home initially and have not looked at it since. Through the years, coverage may become inadequate or the rates have risen to higher than average levels.

Another issue with homeowners’ insurance is that premiums may be paid through auto-payments or included in payments with their property tax and mortgage payments. Owners may not even realize their homeowners’ insurance rates are escalating.

Even through all this, there are still homeowners that don’t know where they are and aren’t covered and what their coverage limits are. In short, they are not only paying for coverage they are unsure of, but may be overpaying for it. Quite frankly, this is how some become insurance poor.

These are all reasons why, occasionally, you should have a complete insurance review that includes your homeowners’ insurance. Our independent insurance professionals can look at all of your coverage and find where you may be insufficiently covered or where you’ve outgrown coverage. They can then go to work getting quotes on all of your policies. There may be additional discounts you qualify for, like bundling, that you are not presently taking advantage of. Our experts will seek out available discounts and get competitive quotes. Of course, you make the final decision on the protection you choose.

If you are feeling just a bit overwhelmed by all the policies you may have, connect with us for a review. You will gain greater peace of mind and be assured you are not over-paying for your protection. If you can’t recall the last time you had an insurance review, it is time to call our independent agents today!