5 Maintenance Tasks You Shouldn't Forget
Even if you never experience a major mishap, homeownership can be expensive. That’s why it’s so important to stop trouble before it starts.
What’s the best way to do this? Take care of basic maintenance tasks throughout the year.
When completed on a regular schedule, these five actions can help prevent you from wasting your hard-earned money on unnecessary costs and repairs:
1. Install insulation.
Neglecting your insulation is like always leaving a window open. Reinforce the draftiest areas to recoup hundreds in annual heating and cooling costs. Focus on your attic and crawl spaces as well as windows and doors.
2. Check your roof and gutters.
You don’t have to bust out the ladder to monitor your home from the top down. Just grab a pair of binoculars to keep an eye out for potential problems. Twice a year though, you should probably trim branches that might be getting too close for comfort and clean your gutters.
3. Change filters.
Not only do dirty filters decrease the efficiency of your HVAC system, but they also saturate the air with allergens, dust, and other contaminants. Set a reminder to change your filters with each season.
4. Clean refrigerator coils.
Giving your fridge coils a good dusting can save you big bucks over the course of the year. Add this task to your spring and fall cleaning list for best results.
5. Don’t neglect your dryer.
So simple, yet so overlooked. Clothes dryers are the second-highest energy users in your home. Help your machine operate at peak performance by keeping the filter and vent clear of lint and debris.
Major home repairs may not be altogether avoidable, but they are often preventable. Use this list to stay on task and save money.
Have questions about your coverage? Reach out anytime.
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What You Need to Know About Solar Panels
Whether you like living green or saving green, solar panels can possibly help with both. Considering how relatively inexpensive and popular these additions are becoming, some experts even think solar panels may soon be as common as AC units.
Still, they’re not the right choice for all homeowners. Here are a few critical questions to ask before you commit.
Does my homeowners policy cover solar panels?
Most likely, yes. Most insurance plans consider solar panels a permanent part of your home once they’re installed. However, there may be additional insurance costs to consider depending on the particulars of your policy and where the panels are located.
Do I need any additional coverage?
Covering new solar panels under your standard homeowners policy usually negates the need for an add-on or rider. That is unless the solar energy system is installed at the ground level or other area detached from your home. Regardless, it’s a good idea to check in about potentially increasing your coverage limit.
Will my premium go up if I add them?
The short answer is, it depends. But since your replacement costs are changing with the addition of solar panels, you could likely see your premium increase.
Are there any drawbacks?
As with any home update, some risks may not be covered by insurance, including damage during the installation process. Solar panels also present challenges in the event your home ever catches fire, as they could make it difficult for firefighters to access and extinguish the blaze.
In the end, every individual homeowners policy is different. Have questions? Reach out anytime to discuss your needs and priorities.
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Here's How and Why to Freeze Your Credit
Take this step to help protect yourself from fraud
Did you know there’s a way to protect your credit file from fraudulent inquiries, giving you more say in who can access your reports and when? It won’t even cost you anything to take this important step.
Here’s more information about how, why and when to request a credit freeze as well as what effects this may have on your insurance rates.
Q: Why would you want to freeze your credit?
A: This action can help stop other people from opening lines of credit in your name by denying potential creditors access to your file. In a world where consumers’ private data is often compromised, freezing your credit can be a good safety measure.
Q: How do you implement a freeze?
A: Contact the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) and provide them with the information they need. As of last year, it’s free to freeze your credit.
Q: When should you unfreeze your credit?
A: It’s time to unfreeze your credit if you’re planning to apply for a new line of credit or a loan. Some background checks also require a credit check. Note that it can take up to three business days for a lift on the freeze to take effect.
Q: Will your credit score be affected?
A: Your credit score won’t be affected by a credit freeze.
Q: What about your insurance rates?
A: Most likely, your insurance rates won’t be affected. If your credit is currently frozen and you plan to buy a car or home or update a policy soon, however, it’s a good idea to double-check the necessary steps and outcomes.
Remember, no matter what it’s still smart to monitor your statements and financial information regularly.
Please reach out if you have any questions or if you’d like to check in about your insurance coverage.
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Watch Out for These Homeowner Mistakes
Few things in life are as stressful as buying a home. That is, until something goes wrong with it. The real work of owning a house often begins after moving in, but you can start the journey well-prepared by being aware of these common pitfalls.
Many homeowners make the unfortunate error of underestimating how much their personal belongings are worth. Though it's important to have your property appraised, that alone isn't enough.
To get the most suitable coverage, factor in the value of everything inside your dwelling, too -- not just what it would take to repair. From improvements you've made and appliances you've updated to furniture, clothing and electronics, you'll need to account for everything that would have to be replaced.
Ignoring Routine Maintenance
All homes require upkeep, and some tasks are more vital than others. Realistically, neglecting routine maintenance could even lead to a fire or flood. In fact, homeowners are more likely to file insurance claims for water and smoke damage than any other type.
Since houses don't come with an owner's manual, it's a good idea to make and follow a home maintenance checklist that includes doors and windows, your washer and dryer, and fire prevention equipment.
Making Assumptions About Your Policy
Do you fully understand your homeowners insurance deductible? If not, it's important to get to know how it works and what out-of-pocket costs you'll be responsible for in the event of an incident.
Generally, the higher the dollar amount or percentage deductible, the less you pay in premiums each month. But before you increase or decrease it, make sure you know how various claims would play out.
All homes, even new ones, experience unexpected issues now and again. Fortunately, many are preventable with a bit of know-how.
Don't Make These Home Storage Mistakes
Rarely used objects often end up in the attic, basement or garage. But storing your stuff where it seems most convenient isn't always the best, or safest, idea. Some items are too fragile for these environments, while others could even become dangerous in unregulated conditions.
Take a look at these home storage tips to keep your house and possessions protected.
What to Keep Out of the Garage
For the most part, objects like garden tools or car supplies do fine in the garage. However, fluctuating temperatures make the space off limits for anything that's too delicate, combustible or that may attract vermin.
Some common household items that don't hold up well in the garage include:
- Photographs - Moisture, heat and pollutants from your car can cause photos to fade and crinkle over time.
- Flammables - Sparking engines should be kept far away from potentially leaky propane tanks. Instead of putting them in an enclosed space, always store tanks outside on a flat surface.
- Perishables - Insects and rodents can make a meal out of almost anything. This includes fabrics, paper and even firewood. Unless you have an outdoor fridge, bring any perishables, even canned food items, indoors.
Basement and Attic Hazards
Attics and basements are bonus storage spaces in many homes, but each comes with some risk from the elements.
In the basement, homeowners need to protect against excess moisture, mold and flooding. Store anything that's not weatherproof off the ground in a sturdy container.
Attics tend to experience extreme temperature spikes, so anything sensitive that may warp or melt shouldn't be placed here. Holiday decor, clothing and luggage typically do okay, but it's better to err on the side of caution.
As a general rule, anything that's sentimental or financially valuable should be kept safely in the temperature-controlled parts of your home.
These Events Might Affect Your Premium
Life can naturally be unpredictable, and various events may cause your car insurance rates to fluctuate, too. If you'll be making a change in the future, be aware of which common milestones could affect your premium.
- Moving to a new area - In some states, your ZIP code is the primary basis of your car insurance rate. Details like population size, crime rates and even weather can affect your costs.
- Accepting a new job - Changing your daily commute may also change your premium based on annual mileage and other risk factors.
- Becoming a homeowner - Adding and bundling the new policy could lead to a homeowner or multipolicy discount.
- Getting married- Marital status often influences your coverage, especially if any policyholders, including kids, will be added or removed in the process.
- Buying a new car - This one might seem obvious, but it's a good idea to do some research before purchasing a vehicle so you're not surprised by your new premium.
Can you reverse a rate increase?
It may not be possible to reverse a rate increase, especially if it was due to an expansion of coverage; however, sharing updates about automatic security features in your car and doing a record review of other drivers on your policy may prevent outdated information from further raising your monthly rate.
Keeping your insurance up to date starts with revising your policy to include major life changes. An annual review of your coverage will help make sure it still corresponds to your family's needs.
Please reach out if you have questions or if you'd like to check in.
Credit History and Car Insurance Rates
You probably know that your credit history has a big impact on your borrowing capabilities and interest rates, but did you know it can also affect how much you pay for car insurance? Find out how credit and insurance are connected and learn what you can do to keep premiums as low as possible.
The Factors at Play
Your three-digit credit score is based on various details of your credit history. While your credit score doesn't directly determine your insurance rate, insurance providers may review similar information from your financial past to assign you an " insurance score" that estimates your likelihood of filing a future claim.
How Your Insurance Score Is Calculated
Insurance companies don't consider income or job history when calculating your insurance score. Instead, they look at payment history and the amount of debt you carry. Companies will also note how many lines of credit you have in good standing and how long each account has been open.
This is where things become a little confusing: Insurance scores are also configured using data from other policyholders. The types and number of claims from others in your credit range will help determine your score, which is why it can be hard to control or predict how much you'll pay for auto insurance, homeowners insurance and even life and health insurance.
Keeping Rates Low
Though the calculations may be complicated, there are simple ways to position yourself for lower rates. Start by checking your credit activity regularly and dispute anything that looks suspicious. Make sure you don't miss any payments or carry excessive debt. Over time, these habits may help keep your credit-based insurance score high and your premiums low.
Please reach out if you have any questions.
Insurance Policies for Small Businesses
Naturally, owning a small business means taking on some financial risk. But if you're not properly insured, one accident or lawsuit could potentially close you down.
Avoid coverage gaps and setbacks by reviewing your policy options and making sure you're adequately covered with one or more of the following types of insurance.
General Liability Insurance
This type of coverage will help you avoid losses due to third-party actions like bodily injury lawsuits and libel claims. It's generally a relatively inexpensive type of insurance and many would consider it non-negotiable.
Commercial Property Policy
Most businesses are nothing without their physical assets. This policy helps ensure the things you own -- from your electronic equipment to the building you work in -- stay protected in the event of an unexpected event like a fire or theft.
Errors and Omissions Liability
Companies like architecture firms or consultancies that provide advice or services for a fee should probably consider an E&O policy. These policies cover claims of negligence in case you need to defend your work for any reason.
Commercial Auto Insurance
Own a fleet of company cars? Insure your commercial vehicles with a policy that covers physical damage. The auto liability coverage may also protect against no-fault incidents and uninsured or underinsured motorists.
Recent increases in cyberattacks on small businesses have led to more cybersecurity insurance options. Don't wait until your website gets hacked to investigate ways to protect your digital assets.
Surprises can happen no matter how careful you are, but you can avoid damaging legal and financial repercussions by purchasing the proper coverage. Feel free to reach out with any questions you have about your insurance options.
Do you need umbrella insurance?
We live in a litigious society, and for most families it would be financially devastating to experience a lawsuit. Want to protect your assets? An umbrella policy could provide the extra coverage you need.
What does an umbrella policy cover?
An umbrella policy provides additional liability protection. If someone sues you, this policy picks up where your homeowners or car insurance coverage leaves off. Coverage includes everything from legal fees to the settlement amounts associated with a lawsuit.
Umbrella insurance also covers litigation prompted by:
- Rental property incidents
- Malicious prosecutions or false arrests
- Defamation of character
- Damages for pain and suffering
Who needs extra coverage?
If you're worried about keeping your existing net worth and future earnings secure, it might be worth looking into an umbrella policy. People with substantial assets often set up umbrella liability insurance to insulate themselves in the event of a lawsuit, but wealthy policyholders aren't the only ones at risk. If you don't have significant assets, the court can target your future earnings to pay off damages.
How much coverage do you need?
Umbrella policy premiums are relatively inexpensive compared to what it would cost to have your assets drained. But the more you have to safeguard, the larger the policy you may need.
To figure out how much coverage you need, first evaluate all savings, retirement accounts and physical property. Next, calculate what the potential loss of your future income would be. Finally, add these figures together to form an idea of your potential coverage amount.
No matter how much you have or don't have, an umbrella policy can help you preserve your current and future wealth. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions.
Essential Items to Keep in Your Car
Cars can often feel like second homes for many busy Americans. But just because you feel safe traveling in your personal bubble, it doesn't mean you always have everything you need. Travel can be unpredictable, and you never know how far you'll be from a repair shop or gas station should trouble occur. Be ready for anything by keeping a few key items on hand, just in case.
Build Your Own Traveling Auto Repair Shop
Always check your car's fluids and tire pressure before hitting the road, and make sure you're prepared in case an issue arises while traveling. Items such as extra oil, antifreeze and tire changing supplies can help get you back on track quickly in a pinch. It's also smart to keep jumper cables, a gas can and a basic tool set in the trunk.
Create a Safety Stash
You never know when or where an emergency may occur, so having a first-aid kit and fire extinguisher on hand is always a good idea. It also pays to keep a multipurpose tool, a phone charger and a flashlight with extra batteries among your glove box essentials.
Pack an Emergency Picnic
A few bottles of water and nonperishable snacks can help tide you over until help arrives should you ever find yourself temporarily stranded. It's also a good idea to pack a blanket in your trunk. Not only could you use this for an impromptu picnic, but it could also keep you warm in inclement weather or serve as a seat cover for wet pets and passengers.
Hopefully you'll never need them, but keeping these handy items nearby will help you be prepared for whatever you encounter on the road.
4 High-Tech Auto Features to Know
Though fully functioning self-driving cars are still in the works, driver-assistance technologies are already helping to make roads safer. Some features that were once considered a luxury now come standard in 2018 models, and you're probably already familiar with some of these modern improvements.
Curious about the tech that keeps us safe on the road? Get to know these four high-tech auto features.
Forward-facing sensors watch the road even when your attention goes elsewhere. Should you begin to drift, standard lane departure systems will send you an alert, while more advanced versions use driver-override technologies to help you correct your course using automatic steering.
Increasing a driver's scope of vision is one of the best ways to prevent accidents, which is why backup cameras are now mandatory for all new vehicles. Many manufacturers are also adding cameras to front and sideview mirrors, offering even better visibility.
Blind Spot Detection
Changes in cars' body styles have made it harder to see out of some makes and models. Counter this effect with blind spot detection, which works by using a light, sound or steering wheel vibration to alert you of an approaching vehicle outside your line of vision.
Adaptive Cruise Control
Most of us are well-acquainted with cruise control, but newer cars offer a better version of the old standard. Adaptive cruise control adjusts your desired speed to make sure you maintain a safe following distance on the highway and provides some braking capabilities as well.
Someday we may have completely self-driving cars, but in the meantime, safety-oriented technology is here to help keep our vehicles and our families out of harm's way.
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Moving Forward After a Car Accident
Unfortunately, most of us will probably be involved in a car accident at some point. Though you may not be able to guess exactly how you'll react to a crash, knowing what to expect can make this unpleasant experience less overwhelming.
What to Do Immediately After the Wreck
Take a few deep breaths to process what's happened. Once you're ready, take the following steps:
- Check to see if anyone is hurt. This includes yourself, your passengers and anyone in the other vehicle. If anyone has been seriously injured, call 911.
- Stay on the scene. Take note of the other vehicle's make and model, and record the license plate number if you can.
- Keep yourself safe. If your car is stopping traffic or is otherwise in a dangerous place, pull to the nearest parking lot or roadside. Turn off your engine and turn on your hazards.
- Document the accident. Exchange insurance information and take a picture of any damage if possible. Later, make sure to file an accident report with the authorities.
- Go home and rest. Then, as soon as you're able, call your insurance company to notify them of the accident.
Coping with an accident isn't just about nursing physical injuries. Your mental health is equally important. Once your doctor clears you for normal activity, check in with yourself.
You may feel a mix of emotions, from shock and disbelief to anger or guilt. Don't hesitate to share the experience with loved ones or a professional counselor. If you're still having trouble feeling comfortable behind the wheel after a few weeks, consider taking a defensive driving course.
Even minor accidents can have serious effects, so give yourself time to recover and ask for help when needed.
New Ways to Organize Your Kitchen
The Pew Research Center reports that 64 percent of Americans have experienced some kind of data breach. Be it credit card fraud and compromised accounts or social media and email hacks, the majority of us are no strangers to the need for cybersecurity.
Helpful Cybersecurity Awareness Tips
Whether it's to pay bills, order food or connect with friends, many of us rely on the internet daily. Since October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, keep reading for tips to make your online transactions more secure.
Why Online Security Is Important
How to Protect Your Assets
In our hyperconnected society, your personal information is under constant threat. To insulate yourself from major financial headaches or the need for cumbersome legal restitution, safeguard your accounts in the following ways:
- Be cautious when connecting to public Wi-Fi networks. These hot spots may be convenient, but they can also make you a target. Make sure to log in to sensitive accounts like your financial institutions at home or using a personal hot spot to keep your information safe.
- Keep up with security software updates. Defending against malware and viruses is a huge part of avoiding a breach. Your mobile phone, web browsers and even apps are susceptible to foul play without up-to-date anti-virus and anti-spyware software, so keep them current.
- Create secure passwords. Each account should have a different password that is a unique combination of numbers and letters. Passwords should also be at least eight characters long without repeating.
- Watch out for phishing attempts. Phony emails or calls that appear as though they're from your bank are sneaky ways crooks attempt to solicit personal information. Always carefully assess communications to ensure you don't unwittingly give your account numbers to a thief.
- A few simple precautionary steps can help keep your information secure while giving you greater peace of mind.