One of the biggest concerns we have as insurance agents is ensuring your home has the right type of coverage and limits to ensure you are properly protected.  Being properly insured and knowing the value of the home and possessions can provide some peace of mind during what could be an extremely stressful period.

We recommend reviewing your insurance policy annually to make sure you current coverage is sufficient.  As you do so you want to make sure you will be in the same position prior to suffering the loss.  For example if you have to rebuild your home, you will want to make sure you have full replacement cost coverage for your home.

As you review your policy, here are the main areas to focus:

1. Rebuilding Your Home
Make sure you enough coverage to rebuild your home if it was completely destroyed.  This should include items like building material, appliances, fixtures and even the ability to tear our existing debris.  Depending on your location and the housing market, sometimes the rebuilding costs can be more than your home’s market value. 

2. Replacing Your Possessions
Most contents coverage is included on your insurance policy as a percentage of the structure’s value.  It’s important to check that you have replacement cost coverage as opposed to actual cash value coverage.  Replacement cost coverage will reimburse you to replace the damaged property with like kind and quality where as actual cash value will only pay the value of the destroyed property after deducting depreciation costs.

When you do have to make a claim, some companies will require you to itemize everything you had before they pay anything. Since remembering what you own can be difficult during what’s already a stressful time, experts suggest routinely doing an inventory of your home.

Taking pictures or videos of your home and contents is an easier way to remember than itemizing everything on a piece of paper.   There are also free online tools available to assist with this as well.

3. Liability
Most companies start out with $100,000 of liability coverage in a plan. Homeowner’s generally have more risk than they realize, especially if they have a pool, trampoline, young drivers or pets that could bite someone, for example.

It’s also important to consider an umbrella policy as well that will typically provide up to an additional $1,000,000 in coverage above your homeowners policy.

To find out if your insurance policy is providing the right coverage, please reach out to our office to find out more.

Insuring Jewelry

Knowing how much personal property coverage you have on your homeowners or renters policy is a good place to start with insuring jewelry. Most of the time, you’ll be covered up to a certain limit if it is stolen ($2,500 total). But with the average value of an engagement ring in the US costing around $5,000, homeowners insurance policies will most likely not cover the full value.

Since your standard policy most likely only covers part of your jewelry’s cost (and there’s usually no coverage for items that are lost or damaged), you may have to add additional coverage to insure the full cost should you ever need to replace your jewelry. This is done through a personal articles floater attached to your homeowners policy.
For high valued items, like engagement rings, the item is on a “schedule” and insured separately. Usually you can expect to pay around $1-2 per $100 of the item value. If the ring or piece of jewelry is brand new, the receipt from purchase can help determine the value.

Prior insurance carrier declarations are also good documentation to have on hand if your jewelry has been previously insured. It’s a good idea to get a professional written jewelry appraisal done to make sure that the item is being insured at its correct value. This is especially true if the jewelry is an heirloom or hasn’t recently been purchased.
Remember that the value of jewelry can change over time. It is important to have a recent appraisal done every 2-3 years and update your policy when the value of jewelry changes to ensure adequate coverage.

Another important factor is insuring your new jewelry in a timely fashion. You’ll want to make sure you’re covered even if something were to happen in the days after purchasing or receiving it as a gift.

Once you have jewelry insurance, keep your current appraisal, policy information, and any documentation about the piece in a safe place should you ever need to make a claim. It’s recommended you also take pictures of the pieces (which should be included in a professional written appraisal).

*The above information is to be used as guidance only, and should not be considered as definite in any particular case.  Every policy is different and you need to read through your policy and consult with your agent to best determine how your coverage will respond.  Within this article we simply cannot analyze every possible loss exposure and exception to the general guidelines above.

We are finding that more and more of our clients are renting out their homes on either a short- or long-term basis.  It could be a second home, an investment property, or even the basement or a spare room in your house.  Depending upon the rental scenario, your homeowners insurance policy may not properly cover you.  You will need a more specialized policy.

Short-Term Rentals/Primary Residence

If you are planning to rent out all or part of your primary residence for a short period of time, for instance, a week or several weekends, there will likely be two insurance scenarios.

Some insurance companies may allow a policyholder a short-term rental.  Other companies will require an endorsement to the existing policy to provide the proper coverage.   If you plan to rent our your primary residence on a regular basis for short periods (think Airbnb), then this is considered a business for insurance purposes and will not be covered by your homeowners insurance policy.   Proper coverage would require the purchase of a business policy.

Long-Term Rentals/Second Home

If you are looking to rent out your home for longer periods of time like six months to a year, you will likely need a rental dwelling policy.   (This would also include vacation homes and investment properties.)  Rental dwelling policies provide the proper protection for landlords on their properties, and typically cost about 25 percent more due to the increased risks.

Rental dwelling policies provide property insurance coverage for physical damage to the structure of the home plus coverage for personal property left on site for maintenance or tenant use like appliances or yard equipment.

The standard policy will also include liability coverage if a tenant or guest is injured while on the property.  It will also cover legals fees and medical expenses.

Most rental dwelling policies also provide coverage for the loss of rental income while the property is being repaired due to a covered loss.

Renters Insurance

As the landlord, your coverage is only on the structure itself and your financial interest in it. Your tenant’s personal possessions are not covered under your policy. In order to avoid disputes in the event of damage to the renter’s belongings, many landlords require a tenant to buy renters insurance before signing a lease.

One of the most stressful situations people encounter with auto claims is determining the value of the vehicle or damage.

The Process

When you file your claim it will be referred to a claims adjuster who will verify the loss and determines the costs to make the necessary repairs.  The estimate provided by the adjuster can then serve as a benchmark to do your own comparisons.

Insurance companies will not require you to sign an agreement accepting their estimate as total claim payment until you feel comfortable with the offer. If you are not satisfied with the provided estimate, then it is highly recommended that you get at least one estimate from a trusted mechanic.

While your insurance company cannot require you to have repairs done at a particular shop, they can require you to obtain more than one estimate for the damage.  The insurance company will want to verify they are not overpaying for the damages.

Don’t be surprised when your insurance company chooses to pay for the lowest bid.  Remember you don’t have to accept the lowest bid, but that you will need to prove that bid doesn’t adequately provide the necessary repairs.

Also, one of the reasons why your bid may be lower than anticipated because of betterment.  Betterment is when repairs performed actually increase the value of your vehicle leaving you in a better position than before your claim.

It is up to your insurer to decide whether to pay for repairing your car or to declare it a total loss and pay you its book value. Most standard auto policies will not pay to repair a vehicle if the repairs cost more than the cash value assigned to the car.

There won’t be any dispute about whether to repair the car if it was completely totaled. But you may argue about what the pieces of the car were worth when they were assembled as a car.  There are several standard guidelines used to determine the value of a vehicle.  Guides published by the National Association of Automobile Dealers and Kelly Blue Book are good places to start.

‘Tis the season for online shopping.  In fact, over 51 percent of consumers will make at least one online purchase during the holiday season.  With an increase in online retail transactions during the holidays, there will also be an increased vulnerability to your identity unless certain precautions are taken to protect it.

For example, Dashlane, a company that specializes in online password protection, performed a study of different retailers to grade their security policies.  Surprisingly, their study ranked some of the most common online retailers such as Dick’s Sporting Goods, Toys ‘R Us, and J Crew in the bottom 10.

Here are 10 tips for staying safe online, so you can start checking off items on that holiday shopping list.

Also, as a final note, many insurance companies offer identity theft insurance coverage as part of their homeowners policy.  To find out more, please contact our office.

Online Shopping Protection Tips
1. Use Familiar Websites
Start at a trusted site rather than shopping with a search engine. Search results can be rigged to lead you astray, especially when you drift past the first few pages of links. If you know the site, chances are it’s less likely to be a rip off.

2. Look for the Lock
Never ever, ever buy anything online using your credit card from a site that doesn’t have SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption installed—at the very least. You’ll know if the site has SSL because the URL for the site will start with HTTPS:// (instead of just HTTP://). An icon of a locked padlock will appear, typically in the status bar at the bottom of your web browser, or right next to the URL in the address bar.

3. Don’t Tell All
No online shopping store needs your social security number or your birthday to do business. However, if crooks get them, combined with your credit card number for purchases, they can do a lot of damage.

4. Check Statements
Don’t wait for your bill to come at the end of the month. Go online regularly during the holiday season and look at electronic statements for your credit card, debit card, and checking accounts. Make sure you don’t see any fraudulent charges, even originating from sites like PayPal.

If you do see something wrong, pick up the phone to address the matter quickly. In the case of credit cards, pay the bill only once you know all your charges are accurate. You have 30 days to notify the bank or card issuer of problems, however; after that, you might be liable for the charges anyway.

5. Inoculate Your PC
Swindlers don’t just sit around waiting for you to give them data; sometimes they give you a little something extra to help things along. You need to protect against malware with regular updates to your anti-virus program.

6. Use Strong Passwords
Utilizing an uncrackable password is never more important than when banking and shopping online.

7. Think Mobile
The National Retail Federation says that 5.7 percent of adults will use their mobile devices to do comparison shopping before making a purchase. There’s no real need to be any more nervous about shopping on a mobile device than online. The trick is to use apps provided directly by the retailers, like Amazon, Target, etc. Use the apps to find what you want and then make the purchase directly, without going to the store or the website.

8. Avoid Public Terminals
If you use a public computer to make purchases (which we hope you never do), just remember to log out every time you use a public terminal, even if you were just checking email.

9. Privatize Your Wi-Fi
If you do decide to go out with the laptop to shop, you’ll need a Wi-Fi connection. Only use the wireless if you access the Web over a virtual private network (VPN) connection.

10. Count the Cards
Gift cards are the most requested holiday gift every year, and this year will be no exception. Stick to the source when you buy one; scammers like to auction off gift cards on sites like eBay with little or no funds on them.

Many people are hesitant to file claims with their auto insurance company out of fear that their premiums will be increased or the policy will be cancelled.  While practices vary between insurance companies, more will increase your premiums by a predetermined percentage for each chargeable claim made against your policy above a specific dollar amount.

A chargeable claim is one that an insurance company considers to primarily be your fault.  Also, these premium increases will generally stay on your premium for three years following the claim.

Your insurance company also has the right to not renew your policy if your driving record get worse or you have had several accidents.  Insurance companies differ in what they feel constitutes a bad driving record; however, most of them view two minor violations (minor speeding, moving violations, etc.)  or one major violation (excessive speed, DUI, etc.) within three years as a poor driving history.

You may also decide not to renew your policy if your driving record gets markedly worse or you have several accidents. Different insurers have different rules about what constitutes an unacceptably bad driving record. But some accidents, such as those caused by drunk driving, will probably trigger a nonrenewal from virtually every insurance company.

If you have an accident but don‘t report it to your insurer, you are taking a risk, even if the damage seems minor. If the other driver sues you weeks or months later, your failure to report the accident might cause your insurer to refuse to honor the policy. And even if they do honor the policy, the delay will certainly make it harder for the insurer to gather evidence to represent you.

Last week we shared five of the 10 “hidden” discounts available on your homeowners insurance.  This week we will share the last five on the list.  Please remember that if you would like to see if any of these discounts apply to you, or if you would like a quote on your homeowners insurance, please feel free to give our office a call.

Claims-Free Credit

Home insurance companies have been increasingly willing to offer increased discounts for remaining claims-free.  The reasoning is pretty straightforward: Your ability to avoid claims helps the insurance company retain more money; and, as part of that, they are willing to pass on some of the savings through discounted premiums.

It’s a fairly a new discount that isn’t being offered by every homeowners insurance company, but for those that do, the savings can be significant.  Insurance companies understand it’s in their best interest to reward clients that avoid claims.

Claims-free credit: 20 percent.


Thanks to the security aspects now offered by many homeowners associations, including neighborhood watches, home maintenance, and the association’s restrictions and covenants, your insurance company may be willing to discount your premiums.

Homeowners association credit: 5 percent to 10 percent.

New Rates

Home insurance rates are dynamic.  As neighborhood values rise and fall along with construction costs, insurance companies adjust their rates to appropriately manage their risks.   In some cases, the new rates will change in your favor.  So while you may not have fit the insurance company’s preferred tier over the past year, changes to their rating structure may have you as part of that tier for the upcoming year.

New rates credit: Talk to your agent.

Mature Insured

Insurance companies look to retired customers as part of their preferred clientele.  This is because they tend to spend more time at home where they are typically quicker to detect hazards like gas leaks, cracked pipes, or a smoldering electrical panel.

If you or your spouse are 55 or older and retired, and your home is your permanent residence, you may qualify for a mature insured credit.

Retired or 55+ credit: 10 percent to 25 percent.

High-Tech Sensors

When we think of sensors that keep our home safe, most of us think of either a fire alarm or a security system. While these are both excellent and creditworthy loss-prevention devices, insurance companies are just as excited about new technology in sensors that can detect water or natural gas leaks before they ever become a claim.

Water sensors come in two varieties. Passive leak detectors are inexpensive stand-alone devices that emit an alarm and/or flashing light when moisture is detected. Active leak detectors signal a leak and shut off the water source. Active systems may be installed on individual appliances or as a whole house solution. Gas detectors are most often passive.

Sensor credit: 5 percent to 10 percent.

When looking for ways to save on home insurance, many homeowners think of smoke detectors or a home alarm system.  Insurance companies, though, offer a variety of additional premium discounts that can help you save up to 25 percent on your insurance premiums.

For individuals who are willing to be more cautious and actively avoid potential claims to their home, they have a much better chance of saving significant money on their premiums.

Over the next two weeks, we are going to share a list of 10 “hidden” insurance discounts that can be applied to your premiums to help reduce them.

If you have a question or would like to find out more about saving on your own premiums, please give us a call.

Renovated Home

Homeowners insurance differs from auto insurance in that the cheapest rates typically go to the newest model.  Why?   A newer home doesn’t have maintenance issues like cracking pipes, malfunctioning furnaces, aging electrical panels and wiring, and leaking roofs, which can lead to very costly claims for insurance companies.

In addition to that, newer homes have usually been recently inspected by a professional and any detected problems were required to be fixed.   This can also apply to home renovations as well.  If you are considering a renovation on your home, speak to your agent as he or she may have suggestions on construction tweaks to help maximize your insurance savings.

New home or renovation credit: up to 25 percent.

Gated Community

Living in a gated community not brings a level of comfort and security to you the homeowner, but some insurance companies are willing to offer credits for the decreased risk as well.

It should make sense that your homeowners insurance premiums are always dependent upon the location of your home.  There are some parts of every town that pose more risk than others of vandalism and theft.

However, that doesn’t mean that living rurally brings lower insurance costs.  Your proximity to a paid fire department in a safe neighborhood will typically bring the lowest premiums.

Gated Community Credit: 5 to 20 percent.

Impact-Resistant Roofing

Roof claims are one of the biggest concerns for any insurance company.  Because of the beating it takes from wind, rain, hail, snow, and even the sun, once it is comprised, the resulting damage to the rest of the home raises dramatically.

A number of companies have released impact-resistant roofing materials in the past few years, and insurance companies have been willing to offer discounts based upon the materials’ sturdiness and ability to resist the elements.

Impact-resistant roofing credit: 5 percent to 10 percent.

New Wiring

Did you know that old, outdated wiring causes twice as many house fires as electrical appliances?  In fact, according to the U.S. Fire Administration, faulty wiring causes almost 70,000 home fires, 500 deaths, and almost $1 billion in damages every year.

New wiring, installed correctly, is much safer and less likely to cause any type of outage, shortage, or fire.

New wiring credit: 10 percent

Non-Smoker Credit

Even though the number of smokers nationwide is in decline, did you know that smoking remains the No. 1 cause of home fire fatalities in the United States?  According to the U.S. Fire Administration, every year smoking causes approximately 20,000 residential fires and over $325 million in residential property loss.

While not allowed in every state, there is a discount available for expressing to your agent and underwriter during the application process that your home is smokeless.

Nonsmoker credit: 5 percent to 15 percent.

With most college students living in a dorm or off-campus housing, it’s imperative they review their family’s insurance policies to ensure they have insurance coverage for their possessions.

With expensive electronics, sports equipment, and furniture inside of many student apartments, it’s important to make sure you have coverage for those items.

Unfortunately, for many of these students, they will not have any insurance coverage under their parents’ homeowners or renters policies.

The Insurance Information Institute recommends doing the following before your child goes to college:

    1. Create an inventory to document what’s leaving home: The I.I.I. suggests making a list of all the items your student will be taking with him and listing their estimated value.   To make the process easier, you can use a free web-based software called know Be sure to note specific high-value items such as a computer, camera or musical instrument and scan receipts into the system to document their retail value. Having an up-to-date inventory can help determine how much insurance to purchase and get insurance claims settled faster in the event of theft, fire or other types of disasters.
    2. Check your homeowners or renters policies for off-site coverage: Many homeowners and renters policies will provide some financial protection your college student’s personal possessions while they are away from home and residing on a college campus. Other policies will limit the amount of coverage to 10 percent of the total amount of a policy’s overall coverage for personal possessions.  In both cases, the student’s possessions would be covered for the same disasters that are in a standard homeowners or renters insurance policy. These include fire, theft, vandalism and natural disasters, such as a hurricane. The student would not be covered for typical college type mishaps, such as accidently spilling coffee on an expensive electronic device.  Keep in mind, though, that some policies will not provide coverage for personal possessions located away from the residence.  It’s important you work with your agent to see exactly what kind of coverage your policy provides.
    3. Review auto insurance policies: If a student has been driving the family car and will now be away at college, at least 100 miles from home, you should let your agent know as you may be eligible for a discount. If a student has his or her own car, the insurance company should be informed if it will be used at school or left at home. If the car is being taken to school, the price of the policy will now be re-evaluated based on where the school is located. If a student leaves a car at home, it is important to let the auto insurer know if anyone else will now be driving the car or if it will remain un-used except for when the student is home for vacation. If that is the case, the policyholder may be eligible for a discount. Many auto insurance companies will also give a discount to students who get good grades at school.

As you can see there are many insurance considerations with any kid that will be attending college.  If you have any questions in regards to ensuring you and your college student are protected, please don’t hesitate to give our office a call.