Insurance Blog
Wednesday, 31 May 2017 15:18

Insurance Checklist for Your Move

5 Important Insurance Tips When Moving

  1. Upon Signing the Purchase and Sale Agreement: Contact Baldwin/W&P for an insurance quote. Be ready with:  your new home’s address, square footage, year built, and years of updates to wiring, plumbing, heating, and the roof. 
  2. Decide on Coverage: Your experienced agent will help you make decisions about your insurance needs (including special coverage for jewelry, earthquake, and flood), and provide you with a detailed proposal.
  3. Closing: Provide your agent with the mortgage bank’s closing attorney or mortgage broker’s contact information. Your agent will prepare the insurance documentation and provide it to the bank’s attorney for review prior to closing.
  4. Cancel Previous Insurance: If your former home is not yet sold at the time of relocation, discuss with your prior insurer how vacancy may affect your coverage.
  5. Moving: Check with your mover to make sure that you have coverage for personal belongings in transit.
Published in Blog

 pool safty family and friends

Many Americans retreat to swimming pools throughout the summer to escape the blistering heat. For some, a pool party complete with drinks, grilled food, and music is an essential part of a perfect summer day. While swimming pools are great for bringing family and friends together, there are risks and pool safety concerns home owners should consider.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly ten people drown each day in the United States and there are over 3,000 unintentional drowning deaths, unrelated to boating, every year. While swimming in a residential pool is relaxing and great for physical exercise, it does present dangers that home owners should prepare for—especially when children are present. In fact, the Red Cross states that about 200 children drown in residential swimming pools annually. Vigilance and certain safety precautions can greatly reduce accidental injuries and swimming-related deaths.

Invest in Adequate Fencing and Gates

According to MSN Real Estate, it is extremely important for home owners to have locking gates and fencing surrounding a pool. Privacy fencing at least six feet high greatly reduces the chances that an uninvited person will enter a backyard to swim. In addition to regular privacy fencing, there are specially made fences with childproof locks that can enclose the immediate pool area. The Red Cross recommends using a four-foot high fence that has self-latching and self-closing gates to keep children and pets away from the water.

Provide Swimming Lessons and/or CPR Training for Members of Your Household

If you reside in a home with a pool, every member of your household should know how to swim and understand basic CPR methods in case a swimmer or guest needs resuscitation. Furthermore, young children should be enrolled in swimming classes that are age- and skill-level appropriate so that they can learn basic swimming techniques to help prevent fear of water and promote better responses to pool-related accidents. The Red Cross and the National Swimming Pool Foundation offer an online course that teaches pool safety tips and training for accident prevention.

Beware of Faulty Drains

A potential danger to adults and children alike is faulty drains that produce too much suction where clothing, hair, and limbs can become trapped at the bottom of a pool or spa. Faulty drain issues resulted in federal mandates and consumer advocacy education regarding this danger, especially after the death of a young girl, Virginia Graeme Baker, in 2002. The Consumer Product Safety Commission launched a public awareness campaign to help prevent faulty draining mechanisms from claiming more lives.

Precautionary measures recommended by the Consumer Product Safety Commission include ensuring that spa and pool drain covers are compliant with the latest safety codes and installing Safety Vacuum Release Systems, which automatically stop a pool pump if blockage in the drain is detected. Additionally, home owners should have easy, quick access to pump switches so they can be rapidly shut down if necessary. If a swimmer is trapped by the suction of a drain, avoid pulling the person out of the drain. Instead, break the seal by inserting a small object or several fingers between the swimmer and the drain or grate.

Arm Your Pool with an Alarm System

Like homes, pools can be armed with alarm systems. For example, Leslie's Swimming Pool Supplies, a company with stores throughout the United States, offers in-ground pool alarms that can sense entry into a pool by an animal or person weighing over 18 pounds. Using negative displacement technology, this type of pool alarm is submerged and can be activated by a remote control device. When its sensor detects in-water movement, an alarm will sound inside the home as well as in the pool to alert home owners. In addition to sounding a noticeable alarm, this safety device will also sound off when removed from the pool in its armed state. Other alternatives to pool alarms that can help notify home owners of unwanted pool activity are motion-sensor lighting and security systems for doors and windows that limit access from the home to the pool area.

Practicing pool safety and receiving proper training in responding to swimming-related accidents or injuries can offer home owners more peace of mind when it comes to protecting loved ones and friends. For more safety tips, talk with a Baldwin / Welsh & Parker Trusted Choice® independent insurance agent. We can help you protect your home and its occupants with valuable information and insurance coverage.

Published in Blog
Friday, 28 April 2017 14:44

How much homeowners insurance do I need?

House

A terrific article from the I.I.I. - Insurance Information Institute

You need enough insurance to cover the following: 

  1. The structure of your home.
  2. Your personal possessions.
  3. The cost of additional living expenses if your home is damaged and you have to live elsewhere during repairs.
  4. Your liability to others.

1. The structure

You need enough insurance to cover the cost of rebuilding your home at current construction costs. Don't include the cost of the land. And don't base your rebuilding costs on the price you paid for your home. The cost of rebuilding could be more or less than the price you paid or could sell it for today.

Some banks require you to buy homeowners insurance to cover the amount of your mortgage. If the limit of your insurance policy is based on your mortgage, make sure it's enough to cover the cost of rebuilding. (If your mortgage is paid off, don't cancel your homeowners policy. Homeowners insurance protects your investment in your home.)

For a quick estimate of the amount of insurance you need, multiply the total square footage of your home by local building costs per square foot. To find out construction costs in your community, call your local real estate agent, builders association or insurance agent.

Factors that will determine the cost of rebuilding your home:

  • Local construction costs
  • The square footage of the structure
  • The type of exterior wall construction–frame, masonry (brick or stone) or veneer
  • The style of the house (ranch, colonial)
  • The number of bathrooms and other rooms
  • The type of roof and materials used
  • Other structures on the premises such as garages, sheds
  • Fireplaces, exterior trim and other special features like arched windows
  • Whether the house, or parts of it like the kitchen, was custom built
  • Improvement to your home–adding a second bathroom, enlarging the kitchen or other additions that have added value to your home

Standard homeowners policies provide coverage for disasters such as damage due to fire, lightning, hail, explosions and theft. They do not cover floods, earthquakes or damage caused by lack of routine maintenance.

Contact Baldwin / Welsh & Parker for more information on flood or earthquake coverage.  

2. Replacement cost policies
Most policies cover replacement cost for damage to the structure. A replacement cost policy pays for the repair or replacement of damaged property with materials of similar kind and quality. There is no deduction for depreciation–the decrease in value due to age, wear and tear, and other factors.

If you purchase a flood insurance policy, coverage for the structure is available on a replacement cost basis.

3. Guaranteed or extended replacement cost coverage
After a major hurricane or a tornado, building materials and construction workers are often in great demand. This can push rebuilding costs above homeowners policy limits, leaving you without enough money to cover the bill. To protect against such a situation, you can buy a policy that pays more than the policy limits.

An extended replacement cost policy will pay an extra 20 percent or more above the limits, depending on the insurance company. A guaranteed replacement cost policy will pay whatever it costs to rebuild your home as it was before the fire or other disaster.

4. Building codes
Building codes are updated periodically and may have changed significantly since your home was built. If your home is badly damaged, you may be required to rebuild your home to meet new building codes. Generally, homeowners insurance policies (even a guaranteed replacement cost policy) won't pay for the extra expense of rebuilding to code. Many insurance companies offer an Ordinance or Law endorsement that pays a specified amount toward these costs. (An endorsement is a form attached to an insurance policy that changes what the policy covers.)

5. Inflation guard
Consider adding an inflation guard clause to your policy. This automatically adjusts the dwelling limit when you renew your policy to reflect current construction costs in your area.

6. Older homes
If you own an older home, you may not be able to buy a replacement cost policy. Instead, you may have to buy a modified replacement cost policy. This means that instead of repairing or replacing features typical of older homes, like plaster walls and wooden floors, with similar materials, the policy will pay for repairs using the standard building materials and construction techniques in use today.

Insurance companies differ greatly in how they insure older homes. Some won't insure older homes for the replacement cost because of the expense of re-creating special features like wall and ceiling moldings and carvings. Other companies will insure older homes for the replacement cost as long as the dwelling is in good condition.

If you can't insure your home for the replacement cost or choose not to do so–in some cases, the cost of replacing a large old home is so high that you might not want to replace it with a house of the same size–make sure the limits of the policy are high enough to provide you with a house of acceptable size and quality.

7. Your personal possessions

Most homeowners insurance policies provide coverage for your personal possessions for approximately 50 percent to 70 percent of the amount of insurance you have on the structure or “dwelling” of your home. The limits of the policy typically appear on the Declarations Page under Section I, Coverages, A. Dwelling.

To determine if this is enough coverage, you need to conduct a home inventory. This is a detailed list of everything you own and information related to the cost to replace these items if they were stolen or destroyed by a disaster such as a fire. There are several products available to help perform this task, including the I.I.I.'s free Know Your Stuff® Home Inventory Tool that lets you to create and maintain a home inventory on any digital device or computer and safely store it online for easy, secure access--anywhere, anytime.  If you think you need more coverage, contact your agent or insurance company representative and ask for higher limits for your personal possessions.

8. Replacement Cost or Actual Cash Value
You can either insure your belongings for their actual cash value, which pays to replace your home or possessions minus a deduction for depreciation up to the limit of your policy. Or you can opt for replacement cost, which pays the actual cost of replacing your home or possessions (no deduction for depreciation) up to the limit of your policy.

Suppose, for example, a fire destroys a 10-year-old TV set in your living room. If you have a replacement cost policy for the contents of your home, the insurance company will pay to replace the TV set with a new one. If you have an actual cash value policy, it will pay only a percentage of the cost of a new TV set because the TV has been used for 10 years and is worth a lot less than its original cost. Some replacement cost policies also replace the item and deliver it to you.

Generally, the price of replacement cost coverage is about 10 percent more than that of actual cash value. If you need a flood insurance policy for your belongings, it is only available on an actual cash value basis.

9. Insuring expensive items with floaters/endorsements
There may be limits on how much coverage you get for expensive items such as jewelry, silverware and furs. Generally, there is a limit on jewelry for $1,000 to $2,000. You should ask your agent or look it up in your policy. This information is in Section I, Personal Property, Special Limits of Liability. Insurance companies may also place a limit on what they will pay for computers.

If the limits are too low, consider buying a special personal property floater or an endorsement. These allow you to insure these items individually or as a collection. With floaters and endorsements, there is no deductible. You are charged a premium based on what the item (or collection) is, its dollar value and where you live.

You can determine the value by providing your agent with a recent receipt or getting the item or collection appraised.

10. Additional living expenses after a disaster

This is a very important feature of a standard homeowners insurance policy. This pays the additional costs of temporarily living away from your home if you can't live in it due to a fire, severe storm or other insured disaster. It covers hotel bills, restaurant meals and other living expenses incurred while your home is being rebuilt.

Coverage for additional living expenses differs from company to company. Many policies provide coverage for about 20% of the insurance on your house. Some companies will even sell you a policy that provides you with an unlimited amount of loss of use coverage, for a limited amount of time.

If you rent out part of your house, this coverage also reimburses you for the rent that you would have collected from your tenant if your home had not been destroyed.

You should talk to your agent or company to make sure you know exactly how much coverage you have and how long the coverage will be in effect. In most cases, you can increase this coverage for an additional premium.

11. Liability to others

This part of your policy covers you against lawsuits for bodily injury or property damage that you or family members cause to other people. It also pays for damage caused by pets. It pays for both the cost of defending you in court and for any damages a court rules you must pay.

Generally, most homeowners insurance policies provide a minimum of $100,000 worth of liability insurance, but higher amounts are available. Increasingly, it is recommended that homeowners consider purchasing at least $300,000 to $500,000 worth of coverage of liability protection.

12. Umbrella or Excess Liability.
You should buy enough liability insurance to protect your assets. If you own property and or have investments and savings that are worth more than the liability limits in your policy, you may consider purchasing an excess liability or umbrella policy.

Umbrella or excess liability policies provide extra coverage. They start to pay after you have used up the liability insurance in your underlying home (or auto) policy. An umbrella policy is not part of your homeowners policy. You have to purchase it separately. In addition to providing a higher dollar amount, they offer broader coverage. You are covered for libel, slander, and invasion of privacy. These things are not covered under standard homeowners or auto policies.

The cost of an umbrella policy depends on how much underlying insurance you have and the kind of risk you represent. The greater the underlying liability coverage, the cheaper the policy. This is becaue you would be the less likely to need the additional insurance. Most companies will require a minimum of $300,000 on your home and your car, if you own one.

Published in Blog
Thursday, 27 April 2017 21:09

8 Home Security Tips You Never Thought Of

8 home security tips

From our Trusted Choice friends by Sheena Tatum

Your home is your sanctuary. It is a place where fond memories are made and relaxing evenings are spent after a busy day. Your home is a safe haven where you and your family most feel at ease. If your home is under-protected or you've had a recent burglary, this may compromise the security you feel in your own home.

Recent FBI reports reveal that here were an estimated 8,277,829 property crimes (burglaries, larceny-thefts, and motor vehicle thefts) reported by law enforcement. Financial losses suffered by victims of these crimes were calculated at approximately $14.3 billion. Larceny-theft accounted for 70.8 percent of all property crimes reported, burglary for 20.9 percent, and motor vehicle theft for 8.3 percent

While that number is down from the previous year, it is still a statistic that no one wants to become a part of. Using a few simple home security tips and tricks, you can protect your belongings, thwart would-be thieves and increase your feeling of security while home and away.

Prevention begins outside your home from the minute it comes into view. Take a walk around your property with a critical eye to see what changes it needs. Here are a few you may have missed:

1. Don't provide places for thieves to hide: Trim trees and bushes that may give someone a place to hide or unnoticeable access to your windows. You should trim back any shrubs that are high enough to block a window.

You will also want to consider the lighting of your property. Look for places around your home that are very dark and may allow a thief access to your home under the cover of darkness. Consider installing lights in various places that can light up entrances. Motion detection spotlights are the best option to conserve energy and not annoy your neighbors or yourself with the bright lights.

2. Don't let thieves know you are not home: If you are planning to go on vacation, never announce it beforehand. We are a society that likes to share, and thieves love that about us. Sending a tweet that you've arrived at the airport or posting a status update on Facebook indicating that you can't wait to leave for your cruise is a great way to alert thieves that your home is empty. Save all updates about your vacation and picture sharing for when you return.

In addition, if you are planning to vacation, have a trusted friend or neighbor stop by every day to pick up the mail, newspapers and any fliers that may be left at the door. If a flier has been sitting on your front door for days, a thief could take notice and know you are on an extended leave.

Any time you are going to be gone during the night, even if it's just returning from work after it gets dark, you should have interior lights set to a timer. Having lights on will keep thieves guessing and will let you feel safer when you come home.

3. Keep your yard clean to prevent giving thieves an advantage: Many times, thieves will gain access to your home through a window they have broken. It is best that we don't give them a tool to do that. Clean up your yard of broken tree limbs after a storm. Ensure your kids put away their toys after playing outside. Never leave a ladder outside in the yard; a thief could use your ladder to gain access to a higher window that is more likely to be unlocked. Use the same precautions for tools, whether they are gardening or for the barbecue; lock them up when they aren't in use.

4. Install a home alarm system: While an alarm may not keep burglars from getting inside your home, it will deter some and bring the police to your home quickly, limiting what a thief is able to take. Home security systems will only work if you always remember to engage the alarm. You should have your alarm engaged while you are away or while you are at home as many thieves will attempt to break into one part of your home while you are busy in another. Also, some insurance companies may lower your home insurance premiums for having a home alarm system installed.  Check with one of our BWP Trusted Choice agents!

5. Take precautions to protect windows: If you are purchasing new windows for your home, it might be worth the upgrade to buy shatterproof glass. This would prevent anyone from breaking a window to gain access to your home. If new windows aren't in the budget, consider adding a security film to windows. This will prevent the glass from shattering upon breaking and may deter thieves from continuing their attempt to break in.

6. Secure sliding glass doors: Sliding glass doors have incredibly flimsy locks. A thief can easily pop them in an instant, giving quick access to your home. Installing a security bar for sliding doors would make gaining access to your home more difficult. This measure of protection is a must-have for all sliding doors and windows.

7. Always lock doors and windows: Keep windows locked when you are not home, when you go to bed at night and when they are not in use. If you like to sleep with a window open at night, install window locks that only allow the window to open a few inches.

You should also keep your garage door down, even during the day. Having the garage door open invites thieves inside to look around. It gives them quick, easy access inside your home. Even if they can't take something at the time, they can get enough of a look to see if your home is worth a visit later.

8. Change the locks as necessary: If you've just purchased a home from someone, your first order of business should be to meet the locksmith at your new home. You have no idea who is out there with a key just waiting for the moment to use it. In addition, if you've had a breakup recently, it is time to change the locks. The person may give you the key back, but you have no idea how many copies are out there. Having the locks changed is good for the peace of mind.

Keeping your family, your belongings and your home safe and secure does not involve a lot of money. A few simple changes such as the home security tips mentioned above can protect everyone and everything for years to come.

Published in Blog
Thursday, 23 March 2017 15:04

Uninsured Dog Owners Beware!

 

From our IIABA Trusted Choice friends - 

Dogs bite more than 4.7 million Americans each year—and one of every six of those requires medical attention—yet many pet owners are not properly insured against this potentially expensive liability, says Dave D’Orlando, President of Baldwin / Welsh & Parker (BWP) Insurance Agency in Wayland, Hudson, Bedford and Winthrop.

“Homeowners and renters who own dogs should never go without liability insurance, which is part of most standard homeowners or renters policies, or they may be in for a rude awakening if sued,” says D’Orlando. The insurance industry estimates that one-third of all homeowners’ liability insurance claims may be related to dogs.

Many home-based business owners and renters are at particular financial risk when their dogs bite. “Because homeowners’ policies exclude coverage for business-related losses, an in-home entrepreneur without business insurance may not be covered if sued by a customer who was bitten by the entrepreneur’s family dog,” D’Orlando cautioned. Renters also are subject to higher risk because many people who rent are still uninsured for personal property losses and liability claims. Some mistakenly believe that their landlord’s insurance will cover their losses.

Owners whose pets are among the more aggressive breeds such as Pit Bulls and Rottweilers, or those with dogs that have demonstrated aggressive tendencies, may want to purchase an umbrella liability policy which provides increased coverage in case of an attack. But others should be cautious as well, says D’Orlando. All dog owners should be cautious around children. They represent more than half of all dog bite victims—which usually occur in the face, from dogs owned by family or friends.

“Dog owners need to be aware of the financial as well as physical implications of letting dogs roam free and of not taking precautions to prevent injuries, even at home,” says D’Orlando. It is estimated that 70% of attacks occur on the dog owners’ property.

Leash and muzzle laws vary from state to state as do owner liability. Consumers should be aware of the presence of such statutes and the potential legal and financial repercussions of disregarding them. In many cases, a dog doesn’t actually have to bite someone for the owner to be liable for a victim’s injury. On the other hand, the owner may not be liable for injuries caused by an animal if the injured party was negligent, if the animal has no history of aggression, or if the owner posts approved warning signs.

Most importantly, take precautions to protect others, but don’t forget to protect yourself as well, the IIABA reminds consumers. For more information, contact BWP Agents by clicking here.

And here’s more information from the CDC on preventing dog bites.

Published in Blog
Tuesday, 28 February 2017 15:21

Insurance Checklist for Homebuyers

Sold sign

Are you moving into a new home? Looking to upsize or downsize? Then it's time to call us to review your insurance needs.

  1. Upon Signing the Purchase and Sale Agreement: Contact Baldwin/Welsh & Parker for an insurance quote. Be ready with: your new home’s address, square footage, year built, and years of updates to wiring, plumbing, heating, and the roof.

  2. Decide on Coverage: Your experienced agent will help you make decisions about your insurance needs (including special coverage for jewelry, earthquake, and flood), and provide you with a detailed proposal.

  3. Closing: Provide your agent with the mortgage bank’s closing attorney or mortgage broker’s contact information. Your agent will prepare the insurance documentation and provide it to the bank’s attorney for review prior to closing.

  4. Cancel Previous Insurance: If your former home is not yet sold at the time of relocation, discuss with your agent how vacancy may affect your coverage.

  5. Moving: Check with your mover to make sure that you have coverage for personal belongings in transit.

Published in Homeowners

Top Ten Tips 460x340

Life happens. Even with the best of intentions, maintenance plans, and insurance coverage, the occasional unavoidable crisis will present itself. When people think of homeowners' insurance claims, they often associate it with major disasters such as wildfires or tornados. In these scenarios, there's not much that policyholders at ground zero can do to avoid disaster.

But the reality is that many losses are entirely preventable. The state of Massachusetts expects 50,000 to 60,000 homeowner's claims each year.Some of the most common claims, such as residential flooding, are only attributable to the weather eight percent of the time, according to a study from U.S. plumbing and drain service company Roto-Rooter. The rest? Appliance and/or plumbing failures that can usually be detected and repaired well before you find yourself filling out claims paperwork.

Statistics like these, combined with anecdotal evidence, suggest that many of the incidents that result in homeowner's insurance claims are problems of our own making. However the upside to creating our own insurance woes is that there is ample opportunity to prevent them - with a little proactive attention.

Here are 10 examples of completely preventable insurance claims, followed by a practical tip for reducing the likelihood of having to file. Note: At least six of them involve some type of water damage.

1. Loose/Damaged Washing Machine Hose(s) - Alternating water temperatures, shaking machines and containment in low-traffic areas make this issue a common homeowners' insurance claim.

Tip:  Replace plastic hoses at least every three years, and inspect frequently for irregularities. If possible, situate your machine in a more visible (or at least audible) area.

2. Bath Tub/Shower Grout and Edge Leaks - Small leaks and slight decay may not seem like a big deal, but that water has to go somewhere - and it's usually right into your floors and walls. Over time, this can lead to major repairs in plumbing, carpentry, etc. More often than not, these repairs are not covered by standard homeowners' insurance policies.

Tip:  It's simple. Water that flows into your bath or shower needs to stay there, or travel down the drain. Close doors and curtains. Frequently inspect and repair seals, calling in a professional when in doubt.

3. Toilet Issues - If you've never experienced problems with toilet leaks or overflow, you're in the minority. However consistent attention is key to sparing yourself and your family thousands of dollars in damages.

Tip:  Toilet wobbling? It might not be properly installed. Experiencing a leak? Call your landlord or a qualified expert immediately. We can't overstate it enough: this is no time to wait until "later."

4. Refrigerator Leaks - While tougher to identify than toilet or shower cracks, the water and plastic lines that extend from your fridge can cause extensive kitchen damage in short order. 

Tip:  If you're comfortable or handy, check the lines regularly for kinks. If uncertain, contact an experienced professional.

5. Roof Damage - Most homeowners' insurance policies will provide coverage for roof deterioration caused by unpreventable triggers, such as vandalism or fire. That's not going to be much help when it's time to repair a roof brought down by nagging leaks.

Tip:  Basic roof maintenance, such as gutter cleaning and shingle replacement, is key to a longer life. But don't try to stretch your roof past its time. 

6. Chimney/Fireplace Fires - Relaxing in front of the family hearth during the cold winter months is a great source of comfort and warmth. But according to the Chimney Safety Institute of America, "Your chimney…adds architectural interest to your home, but its' real function is to carry dangerous flue gases from your fireplace." A dirty or blocked chimney cannot succeed in its mission - with dangerous and expensive consequences.

Tip: Implement all fire safety best practices and maintain a regular chimney-cleaning schedule.

7. Hot Water Heater Leaks - There's always plenty of complaints when the hot water runs out, but it's entirely possible that quick heat loss reflects poor tank performance or sediment presence.

Tip: If your water heater is more than five years old, a qualified technician should inspect it at least every year.

8. Electrical Fires - Does your "surge protector" ironically resemble an overloaded circuit hazard? Do you hide cords under the carpet for aesthetic reasons?  If you answered "yes" to either question, you've got a preventable homeowners' insurance claim on your hands.

Tip: Unplug any and all appliances not actively in use. Never route cords under rugs.

9. Cooking/Candle Fires - Open flame (or gas) is often necessary for preparing food, warming and illuminating the home. But next to water damage, fire devastation is the number one source of homeowners' insurance claims.

Tip:  Similar to what Smokey the Bear would say, only you can prevent most fires. Be vigilant at all times and always practice safety. 

10. Garage Door Opener Theft - Sometimes it's just easier to park on the street than pull into the garage. But smart criminals on the lookout will take it as an opportunity to gain entrance

Tip:  If your car is not in the garage, don't leave the door opener behind in your vehicle!

Published in Homeowners
Tuesday, 31 January 2017 05:48

Home and Business Inventory Checklist

Home Inventory checklist

Now is a great time to take a few minutes this winter to make a home or business inventory. If disaster strikes, or your home or business is burglarized and your belongings are destroyed or stolen, an inventory makes the insurance claims process a lot simpler. Being able to provide a detailed home inventory to a claims adjuster can help you and your insurance company settle on a fair amount for your belongings and it helps you get your possessions replaced quicker. Creating a home inventory doesn’t have to be completely daunting. Here are a few tips for compiling your home inventory:

  • Take one room at a time; 15 minutes at a time. Keep the task manageable by breaking it into smaller pieces by focusing on one room at a time and for just 15 minutes. Repeat until all of your rooms are complete!
  • Details, details, details. A home inventory includes a comprehensive list of all your belongings, along with receipts (if you have them), photos, and descriptions. For items such as electronics be sure to record the serial number of the item.
  • Divide and conquer. Instead of making one long list of your items, break it down by room and/or type of item, such as clothing, heirlooms, electronics, and jewelry. This will make the home inventory less overwhelming and decrease the chances that you’ll overlook something.
  • Know what your stuff is worth. If you have antiques, family heirlooms, or other valuables that don’t have receipts, you may want to have them appraised in order to determine their value.
  • Don't forget to check the attic. When taking your inventory, make sure you don’t overlook items that are stored in the closet, drawers, attic, or garage. Bicycles, holiday decorations, and sports equipment may be out of sight, but their cost adds up. Make sure you include everything – even if it’s in storage – on your list. 
  • Add it up. Once you have a full document of all your belongings, along with their values, add up all the items in your home and their total cost. 
  • Keep it safe. Store your complete home inventory with your insurance policy in a safe, easily accessible place, such as a fireproof box, safe deposit box, or other secure location. Technology today also makes it possible to keep your home inventory digitally using cloud storage.
  • Take stock annually. Remember to review and update your inventory each year, or whenever you make a significant purchase, to ensure your new items are documented.

There are many easy home inventory tools that can help and are available as apps for your Droid or iPhone, on your computer or simply as a paper checklist. Here are a few for you to check out:

There are great mobile apps that offer a home inventory tool which allows you to use your smart phone or tablet to take pictures and document important details of your belongings. It also allows you to maintain multiple inventories, so you can categorize your belongings by type (electronics, furniture, etc.) or by room in the house. This app is free and available through both the App Store and Google Play:

Know Your Stuff. An app provided by the Insurance Information Institute. Disasters can happen anytime, but with the Know Your Stuff® Home Inventory app, you’ll always have an up-to-date record of your belongings. Know Your Stuff® is a snap to use: Just take photos of your belongings and fill in a few key details. Your data automatically syncs with free cloud storage, giving you secure access whenever you want. You also can access this online at knowyourstuff.org  Download the Know Your Stuff® app for iPhone or Android.

And if your preference is to complete the task with pen and paper, here's a form you can use:

Great Inventory Form for You to Print - here's a link to a pdf form that you can print on your home computer if you prefer the traditional pen to paper way to keep organized.

Published in Homeowners

snow roof

With more snow on the way in the upcoming weeks, Baldwin / Welsh & Parker Insurance Agencies wants to remind you to continue working to prevent property damage due to snow, ice and spring melting. Here are some terrific checklists to review and put on your to-do list:
  1. Remove excess snow from the roof. Prevent the need for water damage restoration and encourage water flow by carefully removing excess snow from the roof or hiring a contractor to do this for you.
  2. Clear gutters, drains and downspouts: When rains and rapid snowmelts are imminent, cleaning gutters and drains will direct water away from the building. Make sure a channel to the storm drain is clear of debris.
  3. Move the snow: After a winter storm, move piled snow away from the property’s foundation.
  4. Secure property on lower levels. Move items up onto waterproof shelving, to higher levels of your property, or have waterproof containers to help prevent water damage.

In addition, here is great information offered by the Massachusetts Department of Public Safety (DPS), the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services (DFS) and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA):

Homeowners, tenants, and businesses should be cognizant of the danger posed by heavy snow loads on roofs, and the importance of recognizing the warning signs of potential structural weaknesses. In many instances, the risks posed by accumulated snow can be mitigated by safely removing snow from roofs. Flat and low pitched roofs, most often found on industrial buildings, but also used in certain home designs, are at the greatest risk of buckling under heavy snow and ice accumulations.

To safely remove snow from roofs, the following tips are recommended:

DO

  • Use a snow rake for pitched roofs (available at most hardware stores) to remove snow from your roof.
  • Start from the edge and work your way into the roof.
  • Try to shave the snow down to 2 or 3 inches on the roof instead of scraping the roof clean, which will risk damage to your shingles or other roof covering.
    • Keep all ladders, shovels and roof rakes away from utility wires.
    • Plastic shovels are usually best. Metal tools may cause damage to your roof.
    • Shovel snow from flat roofs throwing the snow over the side away from the building.
  • Remove large icicles carefully if they’re hanging over doorways and walkways. Consider knocking down icicles through windows using a broom stick.
  • Wear protective headgear and goggles when performing any of these tasks.
  • Consider hiring professionals to do the job. The combination of heights plus ice makes this one of the more dangerous house chores. If you choose to do the task yourself, have someone outside with you to assist.
  • Keep gutters and drains clean, free of ice and snow and keep downspouts clean at ground level.

DON’T

  • Unless approved by a registered professional engineer, don’t add your weight or the weight of equipment to the roof.
  • Don’t use a ladder since ice tends to build up on both the rungs of the ladder and the soles of your boots.
  • Don’t use blow torches, open-flame, or electric heating devices like hair dryers or heat guns to remove snow and ice.
  • Don’t try to remove ice or icicles from utility wires or meters. Call your utility company for assistance.

How to Recognize Problems with Roofs

  • Sagging roofs
  • Severe roof leaks
  • Cracked or split wood members
  • Bends or ripples in supports
  • Cracks in walls or masonry
  • Sheared off screws from steel frames
  • Sprinkler heads that have dropped down below ceiling tiles
  • Doors that pop open
  • Doors or windows that are difficult to open
  • Bowed utility pipes or conduit attached at ceiling
  • Creaking, cracking or popping sounds

What to Do if You Have Problems

  • If you notice any signs that you have a problem with your roof, or suspect a gas leak, leave the building immediately without touching light switches and call 9-1-1 from safely outside.
  • For general questions, call your local building or fire department business line.

Other Safety Tips for Homeowners

  • Clear snow away from furnace and dryer exhaust vents to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Make sure you have working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms on every level of your home.
  • Clear snow from fire hydrants near your home or business.
  • Clear snow from storm drains near your home or business to prevent street flooding.

#  #  #

Baldwin / Welsh & Parker Insurance Agencies has four offices in eastern Massachusetts—Wayland, Bedford, Hudson and Winthrop. We are here to help you make sure you have the coverage needed to maximize your protection in the event of damage or loss. Call us! 

Published in Homeowners
Tuesday, 17 January 2017 05:02

Love your Valentine's Gift!? Insure it!

Valentine

It’s Valentine’s Day, and thoughts of people everywhere turn to … jewelry. 

Love isn't likely to be a cheap thrill this Valentine's Day, as consumer spending related to the holiday is expected to reach an all-time high thanks in part to the last several months of domestic job growth and wage gains. The National Retail Federation estimates Americans will shell out more than $19.7 billion for Valentine's Day.

About one of four Americans buys jewelry, spending $2,000 per year on average, and industry experts expect jewelry sales to grow by at least 5% annually through 2025. Those who don’t buy shiny things for Valentine’s Day may prefer other types of valuables, such as electronics, artwork, antiques, wine and furs.  

Whatever the purchase, American consumers should take steps to safeguard and insure their valuables. Having the right insurance coverage will provide financial protection and is an important first step after receiving a Valentine's gift of value. 

According to the Insurance Information Institute. (I.I.I.), jewelry losses are among the most frequent of all home insurance content-related insurance claims. Fortunately, there are four relatively simple steps everyone can take to ensure adequate protection for their new jewelry:

 1) Contact your insurance professional immediately. Find out how much coverage you already have and whether you will need additional insurance. Most standard homeowners and renters insurance policies include coverage for personal items such as jewelry; however, many policies limit the dollar amount for the theft of high-value personal possessions—such as jewelry—to $1,000 to $2,000. So, you would be covered if the item were destroyed by disasters listed in the policy such as a fire or hurricane, but if your expensive new present is lost or stolen you would need separate insurance to be covered, pointed out the I.I.I.

 To properly insure jewelry, consider purchasing additional coverage through a floater or an endorsement. In most cases, these add-ons to a homeowners or renters policy would also cover you for “mysterious disappearance.” This means that if your ring falls off your finger and is flushed down a drain, or is lost, you would be financially protected. Floaters and endorsements carry no deductibles, so there is no out-of-pocket expense to replace the item.

 2) Obtain a copy of the store receipt. Forward a copy of the receipt so that your insurance company knows the current retail value of the item. Keep a copy for your records, and include it with your home inventory. If the item was purchased on sale, also get a copy of the appraised value of the item.

 3) If you received an heirloom piece, have the item appraised. Heirlooms and antique jewelry will need to be appraised for their dollar value. You can ask your insurer to recommend a reputable appraiser.

 4) Add the item to your home inventory. An up-to-date inventory of your personal possessions can help you purchase the correct amount of insurance, and speed up the claims process if you have a loss, so remember to add your new jewelry to your inventory. And if you don’t yet have an inventory, celebrate your engagement by creating one with your fiancée. To make creating a home inventory as easy as possible, the I.I.I. offers free Web-based software and apps, available at Know Your Stuff® - Home Inventory.

Finally, if you don’t think you need renters insurance, think again. A 2013 Insurance Information Institute poll found that 96 percent of homeowners had homeowners insurance but only 35 percent of renters had renters insurance. If you rent your home, renters insurance can provide important financial protection in the event your belongings are stolen or destroyed.

Contact one of our Baldwin / Welsh & Parker insurance agents for more information and make certain you secure the right coverage for your special Valentine's gift!

Published in Insurance Tips
Page 1 of 2

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