Buying a Home? See These Five Movies First

Buying a home is still the American Dream. It can be exciting, frustrating and a memorable part of most people’s lives. While most homes sales occur with relatively few major issues, they do occur. If you are thinking about buying a home, here are five movies you should consider seeing first.

The Money Pit

This 1986 movie stars Tom Hanks as an entertainment attorney Shelly Long as a classical musician. With limited resources and big dreams, they decide to purchase an old home together that seems too good to be true. Things quickly begin to go awry with the house with seemingly insurmountable repair and problems around every corner. If you’ve ever purchased a “fixer upper” you are sure to relate. If you are considering a fixer-upper, it may have you rethinking your options.

Pacific Heights

Thinking about an investment property? Perhaps renting out a spare room or two to help pay the mortgage? See this 1990 physiological thriller first. Melanie Griffith and Matthew Modane star as the unsuspecting landlords who rent to Michael Keaton, who exquisitely plays a creepy, frightening, scary and weird tenant from hell.

The Big Short

If you are considering buying a home in a sellers market, this film may give you the willies. This highly acclaimed filmed explores the issues of the 80’s housing bubble. Hopefully we can, and have learned something.

Glengarry Glen Ross

This 1992 star studded film includes Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alec Baldwin, Ed Harris, Alan Arkin and Kevin Spacey. With this line-up it is no wonder it is frequently touted as the best movie ever made about sales and real estate. The setting? A sales contest where the first prize is a Cadillac, second prize a set of steak knives and third prize is “you’re fired”. Let the games begin.

The Amityville Horror

When looking for a home you’ll want a place that fits your personality. Not like the Amityville Horror, however. This is the Money Pit without the repairs.

Buying a home, especially your first one, can take patience and a quick education. Make a lists of your must and must-not haves, and let the search begin. After watching a few movies first, of course.

Looking for homeowners insurance? Contact our independent agents. They’ll do the shopping for you! Call us, answer a few questions and get started saving money today.

Preparing Your Home for a Natural Disaster

There are many variables in preparing a home for a natural disaster. The type of disaster in question, for example, will have a major impact. Will you need sandbags to minimize flooding damage or plywood panels to cover windows from flying debris?

There are, however, some basics every homeowner can undertake to make sure they are prepared for almost any eventuality. Many of these involve good routine home maintenance practices and having the appropriate supplies. Here are some of the steps you can take to make sure your home is ready for a natural disaster.

Keep Your Roof Properly Maintained

High winds can create a chain reaction of issues to cause damage to a home. Making sure your home has solid roofing is a good place to start in preparing for a natural disaster. This can minimize wind and water damage that can become extensive and expensive.

Keep Gutters Cleared

Clogged gutters and downspouts can cause a myriad of problems in heavy rains or even freezing rain and snow. Clogged gutters can create damage to roofs, siding and even the foundation.

Keep Trees Trimmed

Trees need to be kept properly trimmed to allow air to move through easier and minimize damage from falling dead or diseased limbs. Make sure trees are trimmed far enough in advance of high winds so the cut limbs don’t become projectiles.

Food and Supplies

Every home should always have a minimum of three days of non-perishable food and water. Along with food, an emergency kit should include a battery operated radio, batteries, flashlights, can opener, blankets, pillows and medical supplies and medicines.

Cash

In a power outage, credit card and ATM machines could become useless. Make sure you always have at least some cash on hand in such circumstances.

Cooking Source and Generator

A propane grill and portable gas generator can be invaluable following a natural disaster. Make sure you have at least one backup propane tank and spare gas for the generator. Make sure grills and generators are only operated in the open air.

Of course, you also want to make sure your homeowners’ insurance is up-to-date annually. Contact one of our independent insurance agents for a no-obligation insurance review and quote. Get the peace of mind you deserve by contacting us today.

Why You Need to Document What Your Own

If you want to undertake a seemingly impossible task, consider listing everything you own. Sure, the bigger stuff may be easy. Your car, your house, your wide screen television, for example. But when you start thinking about what’s in your closets, drawers, garage and kitchen, you can quickly realize how massive that task can be. It can be beneficial, however, especially if you are ever faced with a massive claim on your homeowners’ insurance policy.

Imagine a large fire, flood or tornado that destroys most everything you have. Where would you start in listing your losses?

The good news is that when it comes to insurance, documenting doesn’t necessarily mean listing every item you own and having purchase receipts. While that certainly would facilitate the process, a video or still images of your home and belongings can go a long way in accomplishing several important issues. First, it will certainly serve as a reminder of most of the things you own. It will also at least serve as some documentation when filing your claim.

Ideally, it is a good idea to keep an inventory of your larger purchases, when you bought them and what you paid for them. But documenting every small appliance, clothing or knick knack purchase would be an unfair burden. The key is the better your efforts now, the easy an extensive claim process may be in the future.

It is also just as important to make sure your coverage limits are sufficient. If you have a large personal collection of art, jewelry or antiques, you may want to have a discussion with your independent insurance agent to determine if you should acquire additional coverage. It is one of the reasons a home insurance review is so valuable.

Many people have maintained the same homeowners’ insurance policy with the same coverage for years and perhaps even decades. Things change, however, and housing values may rise and fall. You owe it to yourself to keep your policy updated.

We invite you to contact us for a no-obligation homeowners insurance review. If you like, we can get quotes from multiple companies so you can determine the best coverage at a price that works for you. If you want to make sure you are prepared for a large claim, make sure you have at least some inventory basics down pat and your homeowners insurance is sufficient. Contact us for assistance.

College Life and Renters’ Insurance

Heading off to college is an exciting, busy and stressful time. There seems to be an endless list of things to do ranging from signing up for classes, moving, acquiring the appropriate materials and, of course, learning to live on one’s own. In these first few months, things will eventually settle down, but you may still discover loose ends that may need to be taken care of. One of those is securing renters insurance.

“Great, another expense.” you may say to yourself. The fact is, however, renters insurance is extremely affordable, especially when you consider the protection in provides. Depending on the coverage and policy, you may be able to secure renters insurance for as little as a dollar a day! Policies can vary deonding on whether a student is staying in a dorm or living off campus. It can also be a good idea to encourage all roommates to acquire renters insurance.

Why is renters insurance so important for college students? Well, first, they are college students. taking care of their stuff may not be their highest priority. They also may have a surprising amount of valuable personal property to insure.

Renters insurance can cover those designer jeans, expensive sneakers, jackets, shirts, and pants should they be lost in a fire, through water damage or even theft. It would cover furniture under those same circumstances. Depending on the provisions of your policy, it may cover certain expensive personal electronic and digital devices from loss due to damage or theft. Personal possessions are important, especially since the odds of being a victim of theft increase for those living in a rental property. But personal possessions are just the start of why renters insurance is so critical for those attending college.

Renters insurance protects the policyholder in case of a liability claim. Should someone become injured while in the rental unit unit and file a claim, the legal expenses involve in the claim and any settlement would be covered. This includes delivery personnel who may be delivering food or groceries.

Renters insurance policies also generally will cover personal belongings while on the road. Should there be a loss while traveling, personal possessions are frequently covered.

College students and parents need to remember that the landlord’s insurance will NOT cover your personal property. A parent’s homeowners’ insurance may provide some protection, but it may not be sufficient. It is why when things settle down after moving for college, you should take the time to secure renters insurance.

Our independent insurance agents can compare prices from multiple companies to find you the coverage you need at a price you can feel comfortable with. Find out just how easy and affordable it can be. Contact us today for your free, no-obligation renters’ insurance quote.

Want to Add Value to Your Home? Consider Upgrading Your Landscaping

Many homeowners who are focused on improving the value of their homes will take on expensive interior projects like a kitchen or bath remodel. These, of course, can pay big dividends but they can also be extremely costly. If you are looking to make a big impact for the money, you may want to consider improving the outside of your home with upgraded landscaping.

Many outside landscaping and gardening projects can be accomplished by the homeowner. Landscaping materials are often reasonably priced and can impact curb appeal dramatically. Here are some landscaping ideas you may be able to take on as a do-it-yourselfer.

Tackle those Overgrown, Mature Bushes

Many homes are surrounded or at least accented by large, mature bushes that may be outdated or cumbersome. These can be frequently trimmed way back and allowed to freshly regrow. Granted, these deeply trimmed bushes my look a little raggedy for a season, but they will pay you with new growth in the seasons ahead. If cutting them back doesn’t provide enough change, consider removing them and replanting them with something new immediately.

Use Bricks or Stones to Build Garden Borders

If front yard garden or bushes are just bordered by your lawn, consider adding a brick or stone raised border. The border can be built arching out into the yard to add depth and interest. Add soil within the border to raise the ground level and accent in mulch. This can also be a prime area to add some color with flowers in the spring.

Create a Mulch Border Around Trees

Trees on a lawn area can be accented by created a circular boundary around the based of the tree. This can be done by removing some of the dirt around the tree and replacing it with mulch or by adding a border and filling it with mulch. This is also a clever way to hid exposed roots and make mowing just a bit easier.

Don’t Forget Landscape Lighting

There are a multitude of brilliant landscape lighting products today that will make your yard shine. Landscape lighting can also add additional security. Solar lights are simple to install and virtual maintenance and energy free!

Need ideas? Grab a magazine while at the grocery or perform some online searches for idea starters. Landscaping can be a rewarding way to upgrade the appearance and value of your home.

Is your homeowners’ insurance keeping up with the value of your home? Have you made any significant improvements in recent years? Talk with one of our independent insurance agents for a no-obligation review. We look forward to assisting you!

This Biggest Cause of House Fires May Surprise You

It wasn’t that long ago fires could destroy major cities virtually overnight. London, Chicago and San Francisco are among the examples. Wooden structures crowded together, poor and inadequate fire fighting equipment and narrow streets all contributed to these catastrophic fires. Today, better planning, zoning and building codes have all lead to the decrease in house fires. Well-equipped fire fighting agencies have also contributed to the decline. That’s not to say house fires aren’t still a problem Each year there are an average of over 350,000 homes that catch fire, resulting in an annual average death toll of over 2,600 people along with 11,000 injuries. The resulting financial losses from these house fires is nearly $7 billion.

What however, is the major cause of modern house fires? The top five list may surprise you.

  1. Candles. We love the warm glow and tempting aromas of the house candles in our homes, but they are the fifth major cause of house fires in the United States, especially in the fall and winter holidays, when their use is so popular. Never leave lit candles unattended and keep them away from loose and flammable materials.
  2. Electrical Wires and Equipment. Frayed and damaged wires, short circuits in outlets and old switches are among the fourth main cause of house fires in the United States today. If you notice dimming lights or switches or outlets that don’t perform perfectly, have them replaced.
  3. Smoking in Bed. This may be hard for those who don’t smoke to believe, but smoking in bed remains a significant cause of house fires, at number three on our list. Making bedrooms a no-smoking area can help.
  4. Heating Equipment. From space heaters to furnaces, the equipment used to heat our homes is the number two cause of fires in our houses. Furnaces should be checked annually and filters replaced quarterly. Space heaters should be used sparingly and never while unattended.
  5. Cooking. The number one cause of house fires today is cooking. In fact, about 42% of all housing structure fires are cooking related. It may be another good reason to order out.

Yes, house fires are much less of an issue than generations ago but they are still a concern. If you want to be assured you have enough insurance coverage on your home, contact our independent agents. They can shop to find the homeowners insurance best for you!

Six Common Sense Tips to Make Your Home Safer and More Secure

Ask any home builder, property manager or real estate agent and they’ll likely tell you one of the most desired features in a home today are those that enhance security. You may not have the resources to build a secure fence and electronic security gate around your home or perhaps not even a multiple video camera system, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t relatively inexpensive, practical steps you can take. here are six common sense ways to make sure your home is more secure.

  1.  Add Outdoor Lighting. Outdoor lighting can range from a simple floodlight operated by a switch to a more extensive solar or timed security lighting system. Outdoor lighting keeps unwanted visitors aware from your window and makes your home less attractive to thieves. It is effective and inexpensive.
  2. Install a Deadbolt in Entrance Doors. There is a significant difference between breaking into a home with a handle like lock and one that is reinforced with a deadbolt. If upgrading to steel entrance doors is not in your budget, a deadbolt is an affordable option.
  3. Secure Sliding Doors. There are a variety of products available to better secure sliding doors. One effective way is simply place a cut broom stick in the channel of the closed sliding door at night or when you are away.
  4. Secure Window Air Conditioners. Windows that house air conditioning units can be susceptible to being opened from the outside. Place a bar above the unit on the inside of the window to prevent the window from being raised or use some other device to prevent its opening. Even a screw drilled halfway through the sliding window channel can prevent it from being opened.
  5. Store Valuables in Unexpected Places. If someone should enter your home, the first places they will look for valuables is generally bedrooms and closets. Store valuable elsewhere.
  6. Don’t Advertise You Will Be Out of Town on Social Media. Unless you have your social media accounts locked down to just a few family and friends, be cautious about posting vacation pictures while you are away or touting out of town visits in real time.

You can spend hundreds and even thousands of dollars making your home more secure. It is better however, to take the common sense steps first. That may include a homeowners’ insurance review. Contact our independent insurance agents for a no-cost, no-obligation review today!

The Five Most Common Home Insurance Liability Claims

Often when insurance agents talk about homeowners insurance, the clients eyes will begin to glaze over as if in a trance. When specific features like liability insurance are delved into, those glazed eyes may be accompanied by audible snoring. Let’s face it, talk of homeowners insurance and liability coverage probably won’t get you that second date. That doesn’t mean it is not important, however. Especially when you consider how important homeowners insurance is on a practical level.

Everyday, the liability coverage of someone’s homeowner’s insurance saves their bacon. Here are five of the most common liability claims homeowners face.

Injuries to Domestic Workers

You may not have a maid or butler but you may pay to have your lawn mowed or dog walked. If the people who work for you, even on a contract basis, are injured in their duties or while on your property you could be upriver without a paddle. That is unless you have sufficient liability coverage.

If an Intoxicated Guest Harms Someone or Causes Damage

Are you aware you could be on the hook if a guest who get intoxicated at a party at your home leaves and harms himself or others? That’s kind of a frightening thought, isn’t it? Liability insurance can cover you from the financial damage resulting from any such claims.

Dog Bites

Dog bites are one of the most frequent causes of liability claims against a homeowner. Sure, Pixie may never have bitten anyone before, but it may still not matter. If she is known as a biter it could make matters worse. Your homeowners’ liability insurance is there to help.

Accidents

Are you aware that if someone falls and injures him or herself while on your property, even if uninvited, you can be held responsibile. When you include people you do invite like the pizza, food or package delivery guy, you may be facing risks almost daily. Check your homeowners’ insurance to make sure you have sufficient liability coverage.

Falling Trees

Falling trees, especially if you are aware they may be decaying or otherwise a problem, can be a significant liability issue. Should a storm cause them to fall on a neighbors car or home, you could be held responsible.

For some reason, people seem to be more interested in their homeowners liability coverage following a claim. Unfortunately it may then be too late to make any adjustments. That’s why now is the time to contact our independent insurance agents for a homeowners insurance review.

The Good, Bad and Ugly of Renting

Like most things in life, there are both positives and negatives to renting instead of buying living space. Renting has traditionally been the way young people start out on their own, with ultimate visions of perhaps owning a home some day. Things have changed, however, when it comes to renting vs owning. For example, many younger people are renting longer, some into their 30s. Conversely, more singles are buying homes, prior to marriage. Seniors also seem to be turning more toward renting as they downsize later in life. Here are some of the good, the bad and the ugly aspects of renting living space.

The Good

Perhaps the most attractive aspect of renting is that the financial barriers are lower. You don’t need a large down payment. While deposits and initial rent can be a bit of a barrier for some, it is certainly less expensive than purchasing a home, where thousands of dollars may be required. Since the property is not owned by the tenant, there is more flexibility in moving, based on the terms of a lease, of course. Ther is less responsibility for maintenance and taxes and some rentals include at least some utilities. It should also be noted that renters insurance is far less expensive than homeowners’ insurance. Renting always works well with the “pay only for what you use” philosophy many young people have today.

The Bad

When you rent living space, you forego the ability to build equity in real estate, frequently a core aspect in financial plans. You are instead, helping the landlord build equity. You are also still responsible for any damage you or others may do to the property while living there. If you don’t have an attentive landlord, it can take days or even weeks to get routine maintenance done on a rental. You also have little to say about your neighbors, who will likely change more frequently than in a stable neighborhood where people own their homes or condos.

The Ugly

There are some unattractive aspects to renting, including the fact that rental properties are more susceptible to crime. You also don’t have much to say about choosing your landlord if you can afford and like the property. Some landlords may be unresponsive, uncaring, and demanding. Although there are regulations in most areas regarding tenant-landlord relationships, some landlords may not follow them, entering your property without your knowledge. Rent can be raised after every lease term and leases are inherently written to favor the landlord in every aspect.

Millions of people rent the properties where they live, most without incident. But by knowing the good, bad and the ugly of renting you can be better prepared for what may be ahead.

If you are a renter and have not explored renters insurance, we invite you to contact us. Renters insurance is extremely affordable and has very valuable benefits. We would be happy to discuss it with you. Contact one of our independent insurance agent today.

One of the Best Buys in Loss Prevention: Renters Insurance

Those who rent the space they live in may do so for a variety of reasons. They may appreciate the relatively maintenance-free lifestyle of renting. They may enjoy the affordability renting provides or the fact that they are not tied down for years to a specific location. Another benefit of being a tenant is fewer financial obligations. Tenants don’t have to directly be concerned with expensive repairs, property taxes or homeowners’ insurance. In fact, tenants have the ability to get needed protection through one of the best buys in loss prevention products…renters insurance.

Renters insurance provides big value in protection at generally extremely affordable rates. That is usually good news to budget-minded renters who have better things to do with their money than waste it.

Big Protection

The benefits of renters insurance starts with covering a renter’s personal possessions. These can be considerable. Along with furniture, kitchenware, textbooks, clothing and other personal possessions, renters insurance covers electronics like wide screen TVs, laptops, desktops and smartphones. Should these become damaged or stolen in a theft or covered event, the renter is protected. Please check your policy, as these Items could have certain limits for all items mentioned. Additional coverage can be purchased through most insurance companies.

Coverage is provided under a variety of circumstances. It could be a fire, water damage, storms or even theft. If lightning would damage that big screen TV, your renters insurance policy will likely be there to help. Renters insurance also includes liability protection if a friend, relative or even delivery person were to become injured while visiting.

Another added feature is that many policies will provide protection for renters while on the road. Personal property may be covered while stowed in a car or in a hotel room while traveling. Contact your independent insurance agent for details.

Affordable Protection

While costs will vary depending upon coverage and location, most are pleasantly surprised at how affordable renters insurance can be. In some cases, it may be a dollar a day or less! Setting up payments on auto-pay or bundling renters insurance with automobile insurance may even provide more value.

To get started, contact one of our independent insurance agents for a no-obligation quote. Ask if bundling can save you additionally. No matter why you have decided to rent, get the most from your insurance budget. Take advantage of the value and affordability of renters insurance.  Let us help you get started today!