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Connie Peterson

What Happens If Your Car Is Totaled?

June 7, 2022

Woman talking on the phone by a car accident

Are you prepared to deal with a total loss of your vehicle?

Hopefully, if you ever end up in an accident, no one gets hurt and your vehicle can be easily repaired. However, sometimes the cost to repair your car is more than its market value. In this case, your vehicle is a total loss.

A total loss can also occur when the difference between a repair estimate and the car’s value is too close. Learn what it means if your car is totaled and what happens next:

What does a “total loss” even mean?

Your vehicle is considered a total loss if it isn't repairable or the repairs cost more than what the vehicle is worth. There are a variety of factors that go into the total loss decision. For example, the older your car is and the more miles it has, the less its market value will be. And digital technology in newer cars can also make repairs more difficult and expensive.

What type of insurance coverage covers a totaled car?

These two types of insurance policies will pay out your car’s Actual Cash Value (ACV) if it’s totaled.

  • Comprehensive Coverage: Covers damage or total loss caused by something other than a collision with another vehicle such as fire, fallen trees, etc.

  • Collision Coverage: Covers damage or total loss caused by an accident with another car.

What if you have a lien on the vehicle?

If you are still paying off a loan on your car, the insurance company will pay that lien first and then send any remaining money to you. If you owe more for your vehicle than its ACV, you’ll have to pay the difference unless you have gap insurance. (Gap coverage pays the difference between your vehicle’s ACV and its lien when the car is totaled.)

What should you do if you think your car has been totaled?

File a claim, and an adjuster will assess the damage or review your repair shop estimate. Once market value is determined, you will either be offered a payout to repair the car or notified that your vehicle is a total loss. When you accept the total loss settlement, you have to sign your vehicle over to the insurance company.

Have questions about your insurance coverage? Just reach out. We’re happy to help.

Can home insurance help with repairs?

May 17, 2022

Family on their living room couch

Are you financially prepared for a big home repair? Maintaining a home can be expensive, especially if it’s an older build or if something goes wrong with a major system.

If you’re wondering whether your homeowners insurance policy can help you with the cost of maintenance and repairs, the answer is that it depends. Keep reading to learn about the types of damage home insurance does and doesn’t cover, as well as the optional home repair coverage you can add.

What types of damage does home insurance cover?

Check your homeowners insurance policy to see what types of losses are covered. If a covered loss does occur, your insurer would generally pay for the cost of repairing the damage. Examples of covered losses include:

  • Fire or smoke
  • Wind, hail or snowstorms
  • Explosion  
  • Frozen pipes
  • Vandalism

What kinds of home repairs are usually not covered by insurance?

When it comes to routine maintenance that stems from normal wear and tear, you will typically need to pay for the repairs yourself. This includes replacing old or broken appliances. Examples of common repairs that aren’t covered by insurance include:

  • Caulking windows and doors
  • Repainting
  • Replacing doorknobs
  • Interior and exterior painting
  • New carpeting
  • Gutter cleaning
  • Dryer vent cleaning

What is home repair insurance?

If you’d like to have additional protection against the cost of repairing major home systems and appliances, home repair insurance could be a good option.

Home repair insurance is an optional type of coverage that provides a certain dollar amount for repairing or replacing things like:

  • Mechanical items such as ceiling fans
  • Indoor plumbing systems
  • Most appliances
  • Electrical systems
  • HVAC systems and furnaces

Have questions about your insurance coverage? Reach out anytime.

Tips for Selling or Trading in Your Car

May 3, 2022

Woman washing her red car

Whether you’re selling your car to a private buyer or trading it in, you want to recoup as much money as possible. But how do you know you’re getting the best deal?

As with buying a car, preparation is everything. The more you know about the process and the market value of your vehicle, the more confident you’ll feel going into it. Confidence and knowledge usually lead to a more successful outcome.

Keep reading to learn how to research your car’s value, prepare it for sale or trade-in and end up with a satisfying deal.

Things You Should Do for Either Type of Sale:

  • Know the market: What price point are similar vehicles selling for? Kelley Blue Book is a reliable source for estimating your car’s value. You can also browse listings on Craigslist, Autotrader and Facebook Marketplace to get a sense of the market.

  • Is your make and model in demand? Current listings will show you whether there is already plenty of inventory for similar vehicles to yours. If not, you may be able to command a premium if your type of car is in demand.

  • Make sure your car is clean and presentable. If you want to get the best possible price for your vehicle, you should make it look as attractive as possible.

Tips to Prepare for Private Sale:

  • Check the rules for a private sale in your state.
  • Take quality photos of the interior and exterior.
  • Write an honest description of your vehicle’s condition and options.
  • Show your car and allow test drives with safety in mind. Meet in a safe area and bring someone else with you.
  • Gather the relevant paperwork such as your car title and service records.
  • Accept only trusted forms of payment such as cashier’s checks or P2P payment apps.

Tips to Prepare for Trading In:

  • Consider fixing mechanical problems beforehand or they will reduce your car’s trade-in value.

  • Shop around for the best value. Get offers in writing from several different types of dealerships.

  • Negotiate the trade-in amount in a separate transaction. This will prevent the dealer from tying the purchase price of your new vehicle to the trade-in value of your current one.

Have questions about your insurance coverage? Just reach out. We’re happy to help.

5 Home Maintenance Tasks to Do for Spring

March 22, 2022

white, sunny kitchen

With spring on the way, it’s time to think about protecting and maintaining your most valuable investment: your home.

It’s a good idea to give your house a thorough cleaning and inspection inside and out, both to refresh your space and to spot any potential problems.

Ready to get started? Be sure to add these five basic maintenance tasks to your spring checklist.

Examine Your Roof

Winter weather can take its toll on your roof. First, check for loose or damaged shingles, animal nests, loose metal strips, cracked caulking, signs of fungus or algae, and damage to the chimney exterior. Address smaller issues now before they turn into big problems later, and be sure to hire a professional if you’re not comfortable with ladders and heights.

Clear Out the Gutters

Again, this could be a DIY project depending on your skill level, or you could hire a professional cleaning service. Remove all debris from your gutters, then check for leaks. Finish by power-washing to clear out any remaining dirt.

Check for Cracks in the Foundation

Unfortunately, routine caulking isn’t always enough to prevent masonry cracks in your foundation. Hire a specialist for epoxy injection that will chemically bond the cracks.

Reseal Windows as Needed

A leaky window is bad for your energy bills. If the weather stripping has been compromised or the caulk is cracked, make any needed repairs.

Get an HVAC Inspection

Along with changing the filters regularly, have a professional come out for a tune up every year.

Spring is also a good time to check your homeowners insurance to make sure you have enough coverage. Reach out today if you have questions about your policy.

5 Tips to Help You Save Money on Gas

March 8, 2022

man filling up his car with gas

Owning a car comes with ongoing expenses, but if you’re strategic, you can find ways to save here and there.

Keeping up with maintenance is one way to avoid expensive repairs, and defensive driving can help you avoid wrecks.

When it comes to the necessary (and often painful) experience of filling up your gas tank, there are ways to save here, too.

Look over these money-saving tips if you’re looking to keep your fuel costs as reasonable as possible.

  • Take advantage of rewards programs. Gas rewards and loyalty programs allow you to earn points that can add up to free gas and other perks, and these programs are free to join. When picking one out, think about which gas station you use most often.

  • Check for cash-back options. Take a look at your credit card’s rewards. Does your card have cash-back rewards for filling up on gas? If not, you could research other cards and consider applying for one that does.

  • Try out carpooling. If you usually drive to and from work every day, talk to your coworkers. Does anyone have a similar commute? Could you take turns driving? If you are ferrying your kids to and from school and activities, talk to the other parents. You might be able to organize a carpooling schedule.

  • Plan your routes. With smartphones, it’s easy to plan your trips before you start driving. Select the most efficient ways to cut down on mileage and the number of times you’ll need to fill up.

  • Bundle your home and auto insurance. Bundling your home and car insurance won’t make gas any less expensive, but it can potentially lower the amount you spend on car insurance. A lower car insurance rate can help to offset the steep price of gas.  

Do you have any questions about your insurance options? Reach out to make sure you have the coverage you need.

3 Home Renovations to Consider This Year

February 22, 2022

modern kitchen

Have you been thinking about taking on a home renovation project?

Whether you want to boost your home’s value, make it more comfortable or find peace of mind with safety and security upgrades, now is a good time to get started.

Here are a few popular home renovations for 2022. Which ones are at the top of your list?

Fresh Colors

If you want to make a noticeable change without tearing down any walls or spending too much time or money, refreshing your home with paint could be the answer. Check out the major paint companies’ colors of the year for inspiration and consider painting an accent wall, your kitchen cabinets or your home office.

New Windows

New windows can give your home a facelift, reduce the noise from outside and make your room brighter. On a more practical note, they can also help keep the cold and heat out and reduce your energy bills.

Need a more affordable alternative to completely replacing your windows? Energy-efficient window coverings can add to your long-term savings and comfort.

Safety Features

Now more than ever, many homeowners are focused on feeling safe and comfortable at home. Weather-resistant upgrades or new roofing could help you protect your property from the elements, while innovations in smart technology can make your home more secure.

Note: Some of these upgrades can also lead to homeowners insurance discounts.

Even if you don’t have plans to renovate or improve your home this year, reach out anytime to make sure you have enough property coverage in place.

How Umbrella Insurance Can Protect You

February 8, 2022

nice house with an orange door

Your auto and home or renters insurance is there to protect you in the event of an accident — but are you sure you have enough liability coverage?

Adding an umbrella policy, which goes above and beyond existing policies, could be a smart decision.  

Learn more about an umbrella policy, including examples of when you might need one and how to get started.

What is umbrella insurance?

Umbrella insurance provides extra liability protection on top of what your automobile, homeowners or renters policy covers.  

For example, if someone sues you for a covered event and the loss exceeds your policy’s liability limit, your umbrella policy can cover those extra expenses.

What does umbrella insurance cover?

Here’s another example: You’re driving home when a cyclist swerves out of the bike lane — and you can’t react fast enough to avoid hitting them.

The cyclist sustains injuries and sues for medical expenses and lost wages. Unfortunately, your auto insurance policy maxes out in liability coverage, and the cyclist is seeking payment. Fortunately, you have an umbrella policy, so you don’t have to worry.  

Not only will an umbrella policy help in a situation like this,  you’ll have the same benefits if someone is injured while visiting your home.

Who needs umbrella insurance?

Umbrella insurance can be a valuable tool if you have assets to protect.

It can also provide quite a bit of coverage relative to the price, because you may need to carry the maximum liability coverage available for your auto, homeowners or renters policy before you can purchase an umbrella policy.

Get in touch today to discuss adding an umbrella policy or anything else.

3 Trends in Car-Buying You Need to Know

January 18, 2022

happy man in a car

Let's face it: Buying a car has never been easy.

If you're looking for a better way to shop for a new vehicle, you'll want to learn about recent trends in car-buying that may be changing the market for good.

Here's what to know about today's hot car market and what these changes can mean for your auto insurance policy.

3 Car-Buying Trends to Know

1. There's a chip shortage.

Computer chips, wiring harnesses, plastics and glass are in short supply — and some experts expect this shortage to continue through 2022. Prices may continue to be high because of the reduced supply in new vehicles.

2. Used cars are in high demand.

With fewer new cars available, used vehicles are becoming more popular. Prepare for a competitive market: You may have to search longer, pay more and make faster buying decisions compared to a couple years ago. If you have good credit, low-rate financing can help alleviate sticker shock.

3. It may be easier to buy a car online.

Online car sellers can spare you a trip to a dealership. Car vendors are increasingly offering to let you view detailed photos, make a purchase and fill out car-buying paperwork online. Some sellers even offer fixed prices, so there's no stressful negotiation process or uncertainty about what you'll pay. You may even be able to have your new car delivered to your home.

What does this mean for your auto insurance?

Since most cars are more expensive now, there's a possibility that your premiums could be a bit higher. Also, if you buy a car and already have auto insurance, you’ll have a short grace period to add your new vehicle to your policy.

Reach out anytime to update your coverage, ask questions about your insurance or discuss anything else.

What Basic Homeowners Insurance Covers

January 4, 2022

A couple walking into their home with bags

Do you know what’s covered by your homeowners policy? Or that you can purchase additional coverage for more protection?

Even if your current policy meets your needs, it’s always a good idea to learn about your options, especially as we start a new year.

Here’s what you should know about standard homeowners insurance (and when you might need to supplement it).

What does standard homeowners insurance cover?

  • Structure of the Home: If a tree falls onto your property, for example, your policy may cover the damage.

  • Personal Belongings: Also known as contents coverage, your policy may help replace items (such as furniture) after a loss.

  • Liability Coverage: If someone slips on your porch and hurts themselves, your policy may protect you financially.

  • Additional Living Expenses: If extensive damage keeps you from living in your home, your policy can help you afford short-term housing during repairs.

If you’d like a more detailed list of what’s covered by your policy, reach out anytime.

Do you need additional coverage?

Every home is different, which is why it’s important to carefully review your options to make sure you’re considering your property’s unique needs.

Your policy may not cover:

  • Flooding: You’ll need a separate policy for flood insurance.

  • Property Wear and Tear: Protect your home by completing regular maintenance, because a poorly maintained structure may not be covered by your policy.

  • Jewelry: You can purchase a rider to cover valuable pieces like wedding rings or family heirlooms.

  • Collectibles: Do you have valuables or vintage items? Ask about special coverage.

While typical homeowners insurance offers many benefits, additional coverage can help give you and your family more peace of mind.

Do you have any questions? Or are you ready to check in about your 2022 coverage needs? Get in touch today.

Year-Round HVAC Upkeep Tips to Know

December 7, 2021

A man adjusting the thermostat

Does your policy cover your HVAC system? Your insurance may only cover damage due to unexpected hazards, not normal wear and tear. That means it's up to you to keep your system in good shape.

Regular maintenance can keep your unit running safely and smoothly and save you the cost of a repair bill. Learn which HVAC tasks you can do yourself and when you might want to call in a professional.

And if you want to know more about your coverage (or what you can add on), reach out anytime.

The Benefits of Maintaining Your HVAC System

Routine inspections can identify minor problems before they become more significant issues. For example, if your air conditioning system is low on refrigerant, it's better to find out you have a slow leak and get it fixed before the system fails on a warm day.

Maintenance Tasks You Can Do Yourself

Check your air filters and replace them as needed. Dust buildup can cause increased energy usage, a shorter equipment life span and more frequent breakdowns due to poor airflow and overheating.

Filters usually need to be replaced every one to three months, depending on the filter quality, your home's air quality and how often you run your system.

When to Call in a Pro

It's best to have your system professionally serviced at least once a year. An expert has the tools and experience to test and maintain your unit for safety.

Plus, a pro can access systems in challenging locations like a cramped attic and perform tasks such as:

  • looking for leaks, cracks and corrosion
  • cleaning dust, dirt and debris
  • lubricating moving parts
  • checking electrical connections
  • calibrating the thermostat

If you know someone who may need a friendly reminder to get their HVAC system serviced, feel free to share this newsletter with them.  

We're always here to help if you have questions about protecting your property or vehicle.

4 Easy Solutions for a Cluttered Space

November 16 2021

Woman folding a pink sweater

Have you been meaning to give your space a deep clean? Do you want to get more organized before the holidays? It might be time to declutter.

And cleaning up around the house doesn’t have to be an overwhelming project. You can take your time going room by room to purge and put away all your belongings slowly.

Not sure where to start? Follow this guide to decluttering your home.

Start Small

First, remember to take it one step at a time.

Set a timer for 30 minutes, then focus on one area of your home. Maybe you’ve been meaning to clean up your entryway or reorganize your closet. Work only in your chosen space instead of trying to tackle your whole house at once.

Sort and Label

Once you’ve picked your area, sort your items into three piles:

  • Keep what you need, such as important documents and sentimental items
  • Donate what you don’t use, including clothing and furniture
  • Toss or repurpose broken and torn items

Get Organized

After you’ve made your donation pile, it’s time to organize what’s left behind. This could require new shelving or storage baskets. The important thing is that you’re able to find your belongings (and keep them organized) more easily from now on.

Clean Up

Nothing feels better than a newly decluttered home. Sweep or vacuum the floor, clean surfaces and organize as you go through each room.

A decluttered home is more comfortable and may be easier to maintain. After tending to your space, you might also work on updating your home inventory list.

Have questions about your insurance policy or anything else? Reach out today.

How to Protect Your Car From a Break-In

November 02 2021

woman locking her car in a parking garage

Unfortunately, car break-ins happen, but you can take steps to minimize your risk and keep your vehicle and belongings safe. By taking a few minutes to review these tips now, you could avoid the hassle of repairing (or replacing) your car later.

Here are 10 smart ways to keep your vehicle safe from theft.

Don’t Make a Break-In Easy

  • Lock your car and never leave it running unattended, even if you’re just heading inside your home for a minute.
  • Close your windows and sunroof when you’re not in the car.
  • Take your key fob with you, and don’t leave a spare house or car key hidden in your vehicle.

Plan Ahead (Even in Your Neighborhood)

  • Stow valuables in your trunk.
  • Avoid driving or parking in high-crime areas. If you’re driving to an unfamiliar destination, research your route ahead of time.
  • Seek out well-lit parking spots, garages and lots. And if you park in your driveway at night, consider installing a motion-sensor light.

Hide What’s Important

  • Don’t leave anything a thief might want, including spare change, shopping bags or other personal belongings.
  • Take your garage door opener, wallet, purse, phone and keys out of your car. If necessary, hide your items — but not in an obvious place like the center console.
  • Keep your vehicle title in the house and your registration in your wallet.

What to Do After a Crime

If you’re the victim of a vehicle break-in or theft, take photos of the damage, file a police report and reach out for help filing an insurance claim. We can also help you be more proactive. Get in touch to learn about additional coverage for your vehicle or home.

5 Essentials for a Home Emergency Kit

October 19 2021

blue home

If you ever needed to evacuate or shelter in place, would you be prepared?

You can't always predict things like severe weather or power outages, but you can prepare for the unexpected by packing a home emergency kit for you and your family.

Review this list of must-have items, then get in touch to make sure your home has enough coverage to bring you peace of mind.

  • First-Aid Kit: In addition to bandages, gauze, antiseptic and petroleum jelly, keep an extra supply of pain relievers, stomach soothers and prescription medications for all the people and pets in your home.

  • Radio: A battery-powered or hand-crank radio (preferably with charging capability) may be good options. A radio may be the best way to get local news in an emergency that affects cellular and internet services.

  • Lights: A flashlight will do, but a headlamp or lantern can also be helpful. Make sure to have extra batteries and backup lights, such as candles and lighters or waterproof matches.

  • Water and Nonperishable Food: Pack at least three days' worth of water and nonperishable goods. Protein bars are compact and may provide you with more energy. And don't forget about food and water for your pets.

  • Miscellaneous Items: Cash, personal documents and paper maps might not seem essential now, but they could come in handy. Other nice-to-have items include duct tape, cleaning products and a multitool.

Together, we can make sure you have the right protection for your home and car so your losses are limited in case of unexpected events.

Reach out if you have questions about what's covered in your policy or anything else.

6 Steps to Take After a Car Accident

October 05 2021

A woman using her phone after a car accident

We never expect to get in a car accident. And even though accidents are common, they feel like a big deal when they happen to us.

It’s natural to experience shock, anger, fear and other emotions in the moment and after the fact. But, preparing in advance can help make a collision more manageable.

If you're ever involved in a car accident, taking these six steps can help you better handle the experience.

Step 1: Make sure no one is hurt.

Call 911 if you, another driver, any passengers or any bystanders need immediate medical attention.

Step 2: Keep everyone safe.

The accident scene can be a hazard for other drivers. If the collision is minor, move the vehicles to the side of the road or the nearest parking lot. If the accident is major, carefully exit your car and walk to a safe place.

Step 3: Call the police.

Ideally, law enforcement will come to the scene quickly and take an official report. However, the local police department may not have the resources to respond to a minor accident, in which case you can file a police report yourself later.

Step 4: Gather necessary information.

Use your phone's camera or a pen and paper to note the other driver's name, address, phone number and insurance information. Record the other vehicle's license plate, vehicle identification number, make and model.

Step 5: Document the accident.

Take photos, videos and voice recordings to capture vehicle damage, road conditions and any details you remember about the events leading up to the crash.

Step 6: File a claim.

Get in touch as soon as possible to get your claim started. We can work to get your car repaired or replaced and minimize the disruption to your life.

Reach out if you have questions about your accident coverage or anything else.

Home Upgrades That Can Affect Your Rates

August 3, 2021

boy with parents swimming in a pool

Renovating your property has some serious perks, such as creating more space or updating your amenities.

Some upgrades, such as a new roof or security system, can even reduce home insurance costs. While others — like a pool — can have the opposite effect.

Before you take on your next home improvement project, here’s what you should know about how renovations might change your premiums.

  • Swimming Pool: Pools generally fall under “other structures” in your homeowners policy. But you may need to purchase additional liability coverage to manage the increased risks that come with owning a pool.

  • Home Additions: Maximizing the livable square footage of your home by finishing the basement, adding another bedroom or enclosing your patio might raise your premiums. That’s because you may need to increase your insurance limits to account for the value these changes can add.

  • Roof Renovation: When you get a new roof, your premiums may go down simply because your roof is new. Also, you may be eligible for a premium discount if you install an impact-resistant roof because they’re less likely to be damaged by high winds and hail.

  • Security System: A home security system should decrease possible theft and damage losses from a break-in. The discount you may receive on your homeowners insurance premiums can help offset the new system’s cost.

  • Plumbing and Electrical: Replacing old plumbing and electrical systems can make your home safer and make you less likely to file a claim. As a result, your insurance premiums may go down slightly. Having a professional install a home generator that keeps your electricity on during an area-wide outage could also qualify you for a discount.

Curious about which changes to your home could increase or decrease your premiums? Get in touch with questions or to talk about your policy.

How to Protect Your High-Value Items

July 6, 2021

family in a living room

You've probably thought about what would happen to your home in the event of a disaster, but have you considered your personal belongings?

Fortunately, whether you're a homeowner or a renter, your insurance policy has you covered. The question is whether your current personal property coverage is enough.

If your possessions have multiplied over the years — or if you own special, high-value items — you may need additional protection.

What’s personal property coverage?

Personal property coverage, or contents coverage, protects your belongings, including furniture, clothing, jewelry, appliances, electronics and art. It insures the stuff that’s not part of your home’s structure (or permanently attached to it) against theft and accidental physical damage or destruction.

Personal property coverage also protects your belongings when you’re traveling or doing things around town.

How much coverage do you have?

Every policy will be different. For home insurance, your personal property limit is usually 70% of the insured dwelling value. In some cases, it can be more or less depending on your home.

If you rent your property or if you own a condo, it’s easier to tell how much coverage you have because your policy doesn’t cover the building. (The landlord’s or condo association’s policy covers that.)

Check your policy’s declarations page or get in touch if you’re unsure about your current coverage.

Should you increase your personal property coverage?

You may want to purchase extra personal property insurance through a rider or scheduled coverage if you own the following items:

  • Valuable jewelry
  • Expensive electronics or musical instruments
  • High-value art or collectibles
  • Home gym equipment
  • Medical devices

Are you wondering whether something you own is valuable enough to warrant additional coverage? Reach out anytime.

7 Simple Ways You Can Cut Costs At Home

June 22, 2021

Are you looking for ways to save more money?

You’re not the only one. Luckily, you can do a few simple things to cut costs — especially when it comes to your home.

Give these ideas a try and let us know if you have any other clever, budget-friendly tips that have worked for you.

1. Get your kitchen in order.

Plan out meals in advance and shop accordingly. To cut down on waste, don’t buy ingredients you don’t need, learn the truth about expiration dates, and compost your food scraps.

2. Conserve energy.

In addition to turning off the lights when you leave a room and using cold water to wash your clothes, focus on energy efficiency when buying new appliances and make sure your home is well-insulated.

3. Set maintenance reminders.

Adding a recurring event like “change the air filters” or “check the roof and gutters” to your phone or Google calendar can help you keep your home in good shape and avoid expensive repairs.

4. Try online marketplaces.

Hop on Facebook Marketplace or Nextdoor to scour local deals for used items and sell or donate things you aren’t using.

5. Try out DIY projects.

Small do-it-yourself projects can add up. For example, patching a hole in your kid’s jeans is much cheaper than buying a replacement pair, and planting an herb garden can save you a few dollars at the store each month.

6. Wait before you buy.

Wait a few days before making an impulse purchase. Reevaluate whether or not you really want or need it and check for upcoming deals or sales.

7. Review your insurance rates.

Take a look at your vehicle and home insurance policies and make sure you have the right coverage. Sometimes life changes can lead to a lower premium.

Do you have any questions about your coverage or anything else? Reach out anytime.

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.

What You Need to Know About Solar Panels

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

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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.

Homeowner Mistakes

Being Underinsured

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.

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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.

Garage Storage

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.

Events that might effect 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.

Credit History and Car Insurance Rates

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.

Cyber Insurance
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.

Lane-Keeping Assist
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.

Rearview Cameras
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.

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.

Actual cash value or replacement cost?

When it comes to insuring your most valuable possessions, you have important choices to make. In the event of a loss involving your home or car, do you know how you'd like to be reimbursed? Does your current policy reflect these preferences?

Carefully evaluate these two types of coverage to ensure you're well-informed.

Actual Cash Value

If you elect for an actual cash value insurance policy, you'll likely be compensated for the fair market value of the item at the time it was lost or damaged.

Pro: These policies often have less expensive monthly premiums, so you could insure expensive items for less.

Con: The payout is not based on what you paid for the item. This means you could be out the difference if something has depreciated in value since you purchased it.

For example, if you had a wreck and wanted to replace the car you bought five years ago, you'll probably be accepting payment for what a vehicle of that make and model would fetch now, minus your deductible and wear and tear.

Replacement Cost

Many agents recommend replacement cost insurance, especially for homeowners. This sets you up to be reimbursed for the full amount it would take to rebuild your home and replace everything in it.

Pro: You can replace older items for what they would cost to purchase new.

Con: This option tends to be more expensive. Also, you must replace all items claimed to recoup the payout and you can't use the money for other things.

Keep in mind that multiple factorscome into play when determining how an insurance claim will be paid out, but by learning about your options you can set yourself up for success. Please reach out with any questions you have.

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5 Tips for Hiring the Right Contractor

Most major home repairs will require the help of a professional, and hiring the right contractor can be challenging if you're not sure what to look for. Here's how to ensure you get quality work for a fair price.

1. Ask for referrals. Look to your network for contractor recommendations. Personal references are the most reliable, but you can also use trusted review-based websites. Be sure to consider contractors who've received positive feedback within the past year or so.

2. Do your research. Search for online reviews and check the contractor's status with the Better Business Bureau or other professional association. Review any public information to see if there are complaints against their license, and if possible, inspect their past work in person.

3. Review their insurance coverage. At a minimum, contractors should have general liability coverage to protect against bodily injury and property damage. It's even better if they pair basic coverage with a worker's compensation policy that extends to any subcontractors.

4. Solicit multiple bids. Compare written bids from multiple potential contractors and consider eliminating outliers that seem too high or too low. If a bid is too low, it may be because they use questionable materials or hire inexperienced labor. If it's too high, they could be overcharging for their work.

5. Put everything in writing. All written estimates should include specifications like material types and costs, established scope, anticipated project start and end dates and expectations for contingencies, cleanup responsibilities, warranty information and limiting factors like homeowner association bylaws or building permits. Everyone should make sure their insurance company approves the work before signing any formal agreement.

No matter how complicated or straightforward your home repair claim may be, knowing how to search for a contractor can simplify the selection process and bring you peace of mind.

Please reach out if you have any questions.

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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.

Post-Accident Self-Care

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

With the holidays quickly approaching, the amount of time you spend in the kitchen is likely to increase. Whether you'll be hosting family gatherings or cooking your favorite holiday dishes, make things easier on yourself by getting organized now.

Categorize Kitchenware

Looking for a good place to start? Try arranging your kitchenware items based on how often you use them. For instance, everyday dishes should be stored in an easy-to-access place, while your professional grade mixer can be kept tucked away in a cupboard. Keep all bakeware together, and store other items close to where you use them. For example, place pans and skillets near the stove.

Lock Down Lids

If you feel like the lids to your pots and Tupperware are like socks -- always missing from their mate -- it's time to build a better system. Depending on how much space you have, try using a rack to file lids in a row or add a tiered pullout insert to cabinets or drawers.

Make a Food Filing System

Start by organizing your pantry shelves into grocery store categories. Put dry goods such as rice and beans on one shelf, and keep cans and sauces on another. You can also use see-through containers like wire baskets to organize snacks. If you need to save space, use an over-the-door organizer to sort and display food, spices and more.

Consolidate Cleaning Products

What about cleaning products and other odds and ends? The storage area beneath your sink has more potential than you may realize. Stackable shelves or even pullout drawers can help you bring some order to this often overlooked space.

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.