How to Pay Lower Home Insurance Premiums: Top 5 Ways

Everyone wants to know the secret to lowering any type of insurance premiums, and in the state of Florida, home insurance premiums are of particular concern. Given the tendency for hurricanes in Florida, home insurance rates might be considered higher than in other regions without this risk. But all hope is not lost – here are five top ways to acquire cheaper home insurance rates for homes in Florida.

  1. Go Gated. Homes in Florida’s gated communities often enjoy lower rates on home insurance than those homes not in gated communities. The reason is obvious: Gated communities are simply more secured. It’s not just the physical gate itself that deters thieves, or perpetrators wishing to inflict property damage.  It’s the fact that gated communities have security systems – both high-end digital camera, video, and alarm systems, as well as on-site, private security guards. 
  2. Buy New. Insurance companies pay attention to the date a home was originally built because newer homes are more likely to resist damage from weather and general wear-and-tear. While an older home might appear to have a certain romantic quality, consider whether it’s worth it in terms of physical damage risk.
  3. Buy in Close Proximity to Fire Hydrants/Fire Stations. Imagine a fire starts in your kitchen, but no one’s there to stop it in its tracks. It’s even worse if the fire station is far away, and/or the fire hydrant is too far to really get a good aim at the spreading fire. Therefore, when purchasing a home, make note of its distance from hydrants and fire stations. This distance will affect your risk of loss due to fire, and your home insurance premiums will reflect this risk.
  4. Go Multi-Policy. If you already have car insurance or health insurance with a particular provider, you might benefit from a “multi-policy” discount when purchasing home insurance from this same insurance provider.
  5. Go Golden. Moving to Florida after the age of 55 is very popular, and Florida is famous for its retiree culture.  Therefore, home insurance companies are keen to be competitive for the “golden years” demographic, offering discounts of up to 20%.
  6. Maintain Good Credit. Insurance companies favor those who will not only keep  up with insurance premium payments, but also with any household expenses, such as mortgage or home maintenance. Simply put:  Customers with healthy financial credit history are deemed more trustworthy.
  7. Alarm Yourself. This is a no-brainer. Like cars, homes with alarm systems are less susceptible to successful break-ins.
  8. Shut Yourself In – Well. Mandated by Florida state law, certain types of storm shutters are approved for discounts on home insurance. By keep the inclement weather and perpetrators shut out when you’re either not there or asleep, you’re less likely to need insurance to cover home losses.

Home insurance premiums are not a fixed cost, but like all insurances, are influenced by a variety of factors. Using the above guidelines, you can assess how your home insurance rates can be lowered.

Home Insurance Tips: How to Record Your Home Inventory

Home insurance is vital for protecting your belongings against the unforeseen. To ensure you are all the possessions in your home are covered, you will need to maintain an updated home inventory list. The home inventory list will not only allow your insurance company to charge you at the appropriate rate, it will also ease the process of any claims you submit.  Below is our guideline on how to conduct a home inventory check for home insurance.

 I. SAVING THE INFORMATION
Before you begin, have a plan for how and where you are going to save your home inventory list. Here are guidelines:

A. Use An App or Software Program

Given today’s technology, it’s no surprise that home insurance inventory can be done via an app or software program. Search online for “home insurance inventory apps” and see which ones suit your smartphone, or tablet. By having your list ‘on hand’ you can easily update your list and save it to the “cloud”.

Not into apps? You can use an organizer such as EverNote, OneNote, or Google Docs to track your home inventory and keep it saved online via your PC, laptop, or mobile device. You can also take advantage of free home inventory software at www.KNOWYOURSTUFF.org

B. Save It in Three Places. In addition to saving a copy of your list at home, make sure you save the list in two places accessible from outside your home. After all, we’re talking about home insurance here, and the fact is that your list (printed, or saved on your hard drive) could get water damaged, burned in a fire, or blown away in a hurricane, right?

  • Save your list onto a web-based email, such as Google’s Gmail – just email it to yourself, or save it as a Google document on Google Drive. This way, it will be accessible from the Internet “cloud” and can be updated regularly online.

  • Make sure a printed back-up copy of your list is saved with a family member or close friend in a safe place.

  • Save your videos and photographs in more than one place as well – more on that below.

II. MAKING THE LIST, RECORDING IT TWICE

The rule of thumb is: Don’t hold back. You think only a Picasso, an 1882-released gold pocket watch, and a 450-year-old, hand-carved Japanese armoire wardrobe are worth mentioning? Think again. Everything should go into your inventory, just systematically, and recorded not only in writing but via video and photographing as well.

A. Start Big. List the big-ticket items first. These typically include: jewelry, antiques, furs, high-end art, hand-woven carpets, or a piano.

B. Go Room to Room, to Front Lawn and Back Lawn. After you’ve listed your most expensive items, move on to computers, appliances, china, large furniture, and the lawn mower. Then finalize with all other items, such as clothing, pots and pans, even bathroom items. Again, nothing is too small – if you lose anything or everything, you might as well have it covered.

C. Record it, and record it well. In addition to writing down your inventory list, take photos and even videos, especially of the big ticket items as evidence.  Once you’ve done a survey inside and out, go through a second-time around with the camera and shoot away.

While we hope that you will never have to submit a home insurance claim, if you do, we wish you the most seamless claims process possible. Using the above guidelines for recording your home inventory will make the process easier.

 

The Importance of an Annual Homeowners Insurance Review

homeowners insurance reviewYour home is likely the most expensive thing you’ll ever buy, which is why you got homeowners insurance when you purchased it. While many feel content knowing they have coverage, too often they file their policy away and forget it. But that’s a mistake.

Like annual home maintenance, an annual homeowners insurance review of your policy is something that can go a long way when it comes to protecting your home. So if protecting your family’s home and belongings is on your list of new year resolutions it’s time to dig up that policy, sit down with a cup of coffee (or tea) and review!

Many homeowners only take a closer look at their policy AFTER a disaster, and unfortunately find their homes are under-insured. In fact according to a survey done by Marshall & Swift/Boeckh, a leading provider of building replacement cost data, 59% of American homeowners fall into the homeowners insurance gap.  But even if you fall into the category of homeowners that are properly insured an annual review is important.

As your life changes so do your needs and in turn so do your home’s needs. For example the market may have changed and therefore the cost of rebuilding or purchasing a new home in the case of a loss may require an increase in coverage.

Another example is if you’ve made an upgrade to your home or done a renovation that increased the value of your home, upgrading your policy can help assure that you’ll be fully protected. You may even be able to get additional discounts to your premium (that’s incentive enough, don’t you think?).

Reviewing your policy can also help spot any holes in your original coverage which will need adjustments. Start by taking out your policy and reading it carefully. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Would my policy cover the cost of rebuilding my house today?
  • Have recent renovations changed my coverage needs?
  • If you have a finished basement, do you have proper water/flood coverage for potential water damage?
  • Are my outdoor appliances and/or landscape properly covered?
  • Do I need extended coverage for personal liability, valuables, ALE or anything else?
  • Is there any way to lower my premium without sacrificing coverage?

An annual review of your homeowners policy is a precaution worth taking, as it ensures proper coverage and a proper understanding of what you are entitled to in the case of a claim. If you have yet to really look at the fine print of your policy or if it’s been a year since your last review, add it to your January to do list and let it me one of the first new year resolutions to cross off your 2015 check list!

 

 

New Year Resolutions for Your Home

New Year Resolutions “This year will be different”, you say. This year you’re more focused, more motivated and ready to take on the challenges of your New Year resolution to get your home in tip top shape. From de-cluttering to trimming the fat on your electricity, you’re ready to take on the home improvement New Year’s resolution challenge.

LMR Public Adjusters is here to help with some tips and tricks for making this year’s resolutions stick!

De-clutter

According to the theory of Feng Shui, clutter confuses and drains energy from both you and your home. On a practical level clearing out the unused and unnecessary build up in you home creates more storage space for the things you’d like to keep. So start off your home improvement by making room, physically and emotionally for the challenge ahead.

De-cluttering Tips:

  • Install high shelves for books that you don’t often need, but don’t want to put away in storage or donate.
  • Utilize the space under your stairs for storage.
  • Use shoe organizers for storing things you use and need daily like keys and cell phones.

Clean up after yourself – daily, weekly and monthly

Create a daily and weekly schedule for household cleanliness. Daily tasks include sweeping, putting dishes in the dishwasher, dirty laundry in the hamper and shoes on the shoe rack. Give your home a top to bottom cleaning one day a week and a deep cleaning monthly

House Keeping tips:

  • Invest in a portable cleaner carryall so you can easily move from room to room with your cleaning supplies.
  • Wear a builders apron when you clean and stock it with implements such as rubber gloves, plastic bags and cleaning cloths for easy access to all the cleaning tools you need.
  • Clean clockwise and from high to low (cabinets to floors) for cleaning efficiency.

 

Become a DIYer

While a professional is needed for a number of household repairs, there are many projects that are fairly easy for someone willing to do the job by themselves. If you’re not naturally handy, take some time to study the basics of DIY home repairs. You may even want to invest in taking a few classes with a professional to learn tips and tricks hands on. But if that’s not in your cards check out our tips below for some projects that even “Tim the Tool Man” wouldn’t mess up!

DIY Home Repair Tips:

  • Lubricate door hinges and moving parts to keep them from squeaking.
  • Educate yourself on home maintenance so that you know which repairs are essential to your home.
  • Clean out filters, vents, air ducts and gutters regularly.

 

Cut down on water usage

Similarly to the advice on saving electricity, the first place to start is to make sure that you don’t have any leaks. Not only do leaks waste water, they can cause water damage to your home. Once you’ve checked for leakage and made repairs where necessary, consider upgrading your faucets, toilets and showerheads with EPA-certified WaterSense products.

Water Saving Tips:

  • Install low flow showerheads and replace water guzzling toilets with high efficiency ones. Those two changes alone can take as much as $300 per year off your water bill.
  • Upgrade your washing machine to an energy and water efficient one.
  • Plant water conscious garden with drought tolerant plants and use companion planting practices to maintain your garden’s microclimate.

Find out more about the causes, effects and prevention for water damage to your property.

Trim the fat on your electric bill

This one will help your wallet and Mother Nature. Sealing the windows and doors as well as making sure your ducts are well insulated and clean are the first things you’ll want to do. From there you can start cutting down on electric usage.

Energy Saving Tips:

  • Switch off lights when you leave a room
  • Turn you AC off when you leave the house and turn the dial down on your heat to 55 degrees F at night and when you leave the house
  • Turn off and unplug household electronics when they are not being used. Alternatively you can plug them into a power strip and turn that off when they aren’t needed.

7 Tips for Preparing Your Home Before Heading Out for the Holidays

holiday travelWhen packing for your upcoming holiday travels, be sure to add peace of mind to the checklist by preparing your home before vacation. Avoid an empty looking home, power surges, broken pipes and more by taking these preventative measures.

1. Pull the plug on household appliances

Even when turned off, electronics use power if they are plugged in, so unplug any appliance that does not need to be plugged in while you are away in order to avoid power surges. This includes lamps, televisions, computers, a toaster, microwave and so on. This will not only save you money on your electricity bill it will also save you the potential headache of coming home to fried circuits!

2. Prevent water damage while you’re away

You may be looking forward to vacationing on a beach, but no one wants to come back to water filled living room. Shut off your water heater and turn off the water valves to your washing machine, dishwasher, sinks and toilets.

3. Forgo foul odors from welcoming your back

Leave the doors to rooms and closets open to keep the air in your home circulating while you’re away. Make sure the laundry is done and the fridge is free food that will rot. Place a fresh, opened box of baking soda in the fridge to absorb odors even after removing food that can rot while you’re away. Even if these things are only mildly smelly they will start to really stink if left undone.

4. Don’t tip off home invaders

As excited as you are to share your vacation plans with your friends, don’t do it on any social media platforms. Posting vacations dates and plans is an open invitation for burglars to pop in for an unwanted visit (remember the Bling Ring?). As much as we love to share our photos in live time, wait and post your vacation photos when you get home. Not only will this keep home invaders at bay it will help you stay in the moment of your vacation instead of checking to see who “liked” your latest post.

Be careful what you say on your voicemail message and auto-response email as well. Better to say your currently unavailable than that you’re away. Another helpful tip is to pack up your car inside your garage.

5. Do notify the right people

If you planning a short getaway than this isn’t necessarily, but if you’ll be gone for a week or longer let your neighborhood watch and potentially the police know that you’ll be away and request that they drive by your home while on patrol.

Another person to notify of a vacated home is your insurance agent. While most policies will cover a certain amount of theft and/or vandalism, they also have a limits and restrictions. One of those is “neglect” or “abandonment of property” so be sure that your time away is covered by talking your insurance agent before you leave. If you’re going to gone for longer than the amount of time allotted according your policy, ask about purchasing an endorsement to your existing policy or any additional options that he/she can recommend.

6. Set the stage

As is with any performance lighting and curtains are a key component to pulling off the show smoothly. Leave your blinds and curtains slightly open and schedule your lights to go on and off either via a timer that can be set automatically according a scheduled program or via a smart phone app that can be controlled remotely.

7. Enroll the help of a neighbor or friend

Ask a friend or neighbor to check in on your home while you’re away. Give this person your key and ask them to go in every day or two to water your plants, feed the cat and collect your mail and newspaper. If you’re leaving your car at home, give this person your car keys in case it needs to be moved. If you have a security alarm, don’t forget to give this person your security code and let the alarm company and police know this person is watching your home for you while you’re away.

If you have a pet sitter or house cleaner coming in while you’re away, let them know about each other to avoid a potential scare or misunderstanding!

Wishing you a happy and safe holiday season ahead!