Are you a home insurance expert or does the industry’s jargon leave you scratching your head?
Unfortunately, if you don’t understand everything that’s in your homeowners insurance policy, you could be vulnerable to expensive mistakes or unpleasant surprises later on. We’re here to help.
Keep reading for our list of 10 important, uncommon and often misunderstood home insurance terms to know about.
1. Adjuster: The claims adjuster investigates your claim, collects evidence and determines how much to pay for the property damage or total loss.
2. Declarations Page: This is the front page of your homeowner’s insurance policy. A declarations page summarizes basic information about your policy such as the policyholder, the home covered, and your coverage and premium amounts.
3. Indemnification: The compensation for your homeowners insurance claim.
4. Loss of Use: Coverage that pays additional expenses when a policyholder has to move out of their residence while repairs are made as a result of damage caused by a covered loss.
5. Negligence: A failure to take reasonable care or otherwise prevent damage to your home and property.
For example, you neglect to shovel the snow from your sidewalk and a neighbor injures themselves. Or, you don’t take a dead tree down and it falls on your property or your neighbor’s.
6. Occurrence: A single event or series of exposures that cause an injury or damage to your property. Examples include break-ins, fires, burst pipes and more.
7. Personal Umbrella Policy: An optional, additional liability coverage for your personal assets in the event of an accident on your property that exceeds the limits of your current homeowners coverage.
8. Replacement Cost: The actual cost of replacing your home and property in the event of damage or complete destruction. Replacement cost is different from the current market value of your home.
9. Scheduled Personal Property: If you have high-value personal property such as jewelry, artwork, antiques and more, this type of coverage can be added to your homeowners policy.
10. Subrogation: When someone else’s negligence leads to damage to your property (such as a neighbor’s tree falling on your roof), you can ask your insurer to settle the claim for you. Subrogation is the process of seeking payment recovery for you.
Have questions about your homeowners insurance? Just reach out, and we’ll be happy to help.
If your home is destroyed by a fire or other catastrophe, will you be able to rebuild it?
Learn what a reconstruction cost estimate is and how to calculate it for your home.
What is a reconstruction cost estimate?
Your reconstruction cost estimate (also known as your dwelling coverage limit) is part of your homeowner’s insurance policy. It refers to the cost of rebuilding your home and any attached structures as they were before a total loss.
The most important thing to know about a reconstruction cost estimate is that it’s not the same as your house’s current market value.
How is it calculated?
The simplest way to determine your home’s reconstruction cost estimate is to look up the average per-foot rebuilding costs (labor and materials) where you live. Multiply that per-foot cost by the square footage of your home and any attached structures.
Reconstruction Cost Estimate vs. Home Appraisal
A home appraisal looks at the real estate market in your area and comparable properties to determine a sale price for your house based on its location, condition and other relevant factors.
In contrast, a reconstruction cost estimate is solely about the price of labor and materials. If you had to build your home from the ground up, to resemble its current condition, what would it cost?
It’s important to choose the right amount of dwelling coverage, or you could be left with out-of-pocket costs for the difference between your coverage limit and the actual reconstruction cost.
What’s the difference between a reconstruction cost and a replacement cost?
The replacement cost for your home refers only to the price of labor and materials. Reconstruction cost accounts for additional costs related to rebuilding such as demolition, debris removal, and more.
Have questions about your dwelling coverage limit? Just reach out, and we’ll be happy to help.
Does your homeowner’s insurance protect against all the possible threats to your property? If you’re worried about something that isn’t covered, you may be able to add it on. An insurance add-on, also known as a rider or endorsement, is an optional addition to your policy.
It’s a good idea to review your current policy to get clear on the types of damage you’re insured against. Learn about a few popular insurance add-ons to see if any of them make sense for you:
1. Sewer Backup
Having your sewer back up into your sink, toilet or drain is no fun. In addition to the ickiness factor, the repair bill can be expensive. You need a plumber to unblock the sewer, and you’ll probably have a mess to clean up.
Adding a sewer backup rider to your homeowner’s coverage will cover the costs associated with repairing the problem, replacing damaged belongings and removing wastewater from your home.
2. Home-Based Business
Do you run a small business out of your personal residence? Instead of purchasing a commercial insurance policy, you can add a home-based business rider to your policy. This will protect the personal belongings in your office space and cover any medical bills for business visitors who are injured on your property.
3. Swimming Pool
When it comes to home pools, you should check your existing coverage to see if damage to the structure of your pool is covered. If guests injure themselves in or around your pool, it’s likely not covered by your standard homeowner’s policy. You’ll have to add injury coverage as a rider.
As with hurricanes and floods, earthquakes are a type of natural disaster that require additional coverage. An earthquake rider will cover the costs of repairs and debris removal in the wake of an earthquake. In addition to your home, earthquake coverage protects other structures on your property such as a garage, shed, deck, etc.
5. Umbrella Coverage
This is a type of personal liability insurance that protects you and your family from major claims and lawsuits. Umbrella coverage may extend to other homes you own, as well as your vehicles and any watercraft.
Have questions about insurance add-ons? Just reach out, and we’ll be happy to help.
High-tech cars are here to stay. Car safety technology is evolving quickly, bringing scores of often unpronounceable abbreviations for new systems that promise to keep us safer. Can a car read a street sign? Can the family wagon's safety systems react to a sudden traffic change faster than a seasoned driver? Automakers say yes.
We're all familiar with established safety systems like Anti-Lock Braking Systems (ABS) and Traction Control. ABS dates back to the late 1920's when it was first developed for aircraft, although it wasn't until 50 years later that this now nearly ubiquitous technology reached the highway. Technology is advancing faster now than ever before, bringing inventive new safety systems to your dashboard and automobile chassis. Let's take a look under the hood of today's high tech cars to see what some of the most intriguing new technologies offer and how they can make your commute safer and less stressful.
Increased safety is the goal many of the advanced systems in cars now – and of those planned for the future. But the enhanced vehicle safety can pay dividends in other ways by helping to reduce accidents, sparing costly deductibles, while also keeping your driving record pristine. The safety features of today's high-tech cars are as exciting as they are practical, and automakers are continually innovating to meet consumer demand. When it's time to shop for a new car, ask about its ADAS features, for safety's sake
Moving to a new place is certainly exciting, but it can also be stressful — and expensive. Once you factor in things like movers, packing materials, truck rentals, gas and more, the costs can creep into the hundreds, maybe even thousands of dollars, for just a single move.
Are you planning a move soon? Don't want to break the bank in the process? Fortunately, a little forethought and creativity can help in that department.
Here are five ways to help reduce your costs and keep a tight rein on your moving budget:
1. Shop Around for a Moving Company
Moving companies typically charge hundreds of dollars for their services, plus extra for things like gas, mileage and larger items like pianos and furniture. If you're going to hire a professional mover, shop around first. Get quotes from at least three different moving companies, and double-check the line-item charges. Does the quote include the truck, all protective materials, gas, mileage and larger furniture items? Does it provide insurance coverage in case of damage to any items you’ll be moving? If not, learn what adding these will cost you if they become necessary.
You can also consider local “mom and pop” moving teams or using an online service that matches freelance labor with local demand to help with everyday tasks. These come at a cost, of course, but are typically more affordable than a large moving company that has less flexible pricing.
Another great way to reduce your cost is to schedule your move for the winter or fall, if that is an option for you, as that’s when demand for professional movers is typically low. Weekdays are also a good choice, as most people move on the weekends. A moving company may be willing to give you a better deal if you move during these low-demand times, as they may be less busy and looking to fill their schedule. It may be worth exploring these options.
Pro tip: Consider doing a little research by checking out organizations online that provide consumer reviews of businesses. Before booking your movers, look at their reviews to get a sense of a company’s track record with other customers and try to verify that the company is legitimate. Note that none of these websites is a guarantee of a perfect experience, but they may help you with your decision.
2. Consider a DIY Move
Depending on how much you have to move and how heavy or cumbersome the items are, you may want to consider forgoing professional movers altogether if it looks as if your belongings can be managed without hiring help. If you have dependable family and friends that are willing and able to help with the packing, loading and transport, you might consider offering pizza or a free meal as a token of your appreciation in exchange for their help.
If you have larger items, consider renting a small rental truck for a few hours. Get the smallest size possible and be sure to fill up the fuel tank before you return the vehicle. (It may cost you more if you leave the rental truck in need of gas that the moving company must take care of itself.
Pro tip: Plan so that you're not moving during rush hour. Heavy stop-and-go traffic can drive up your fuel costs as well as delay your move.
3. Only Move What You Need
It's important to pare down your belongings before a move. That means donating, selling or throwing away any items you no longer use, need or plan to use in the future.
For one, this reduces your load and, subsequently, your costs to move it. Additionally, if you’re motivated to sell some of your unwanted items, you can put those extra funds toward your moving costs — or use it toward the cost of furniture or decor for your new place.
Here are some options for downsizing your household before you move:
Offloading some belongings will also make unpacking easier (not to mention faster).
Pro tip: Measure your furniture and make sure it will fit in your new home, as well as through necessary access points. If it won't fit, sell it and consider using the funds for replacement furniture once you're in your new place.
4. Get Creative with Your Packing
Buying boxes, bubble wrap, tape and packing peanuts can get expensive. Instead of purchasing these items, take a more creative approach and use things you already have. Sheets, towels, blankets and cloth napkins all work great as packing materials, and they all need to be packed up anyway, so why not use them? You can also use your own duffel bags, luggage, purses and backpacks rather than cardboard boxes.
Once you run out of these items, try one of these resources for free or low-cost boxes:
Pro tip: Start saving the plastic and paper bags from your shopping trips. These make good packing materials and can even be used to help protect fragile items.
5. Track and Deduct Your Expenses
If you're a member of the military (or someone in your household is) you may be able to deduct your moving expenses1 on your annual tax returns. To qualify, you'll need to be moving due to a permanent change of station.
If you're eligible, you'll be able to deduct the costs of moving, storage, travel, lodging and other expenses you incur due to the move.
Pro tip: Keep a detailed record of your moving costs if you qualify for this deduction. Save all your receipts and invoices and keep them somewhere safe until tax season rolls around.
Are you moving to a new place? Don't forget to update your homeowners insurance policy. Use your move as an opportunity to ensure all your belongings, valuables and new property are protected. Contact your insurance agent to learn more about home insurance coverage and how it can safeguard your new home and family.
Did you ever leave for work without turning down the heat on a blustery winter day? Or head out for a day trip in the middle of summer without dialing down the air conditioning for your dog? A smart thermostat can help you heat and cool your home more efficiently, monitor your energy consumption and let you control your home’s heating and AC systems from your smartphone, wherever you may be. These devices can help protect your home from damage caused by frozen pipes by alerting you if your home is getting dangerously cold. But there are also some important safety considerations.
How Smart Thermostats Work
Unlike traditional and programmable thermostats, many smart thermostats learn and adapt based on temperature, humidity and your family’s behavior, including when you and your family are likely to be home, awake and asleep. Your smartphone acts as a remote control for your heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, allowing you to change the temperature from wherever you have a signal. Another benefit includes automated notifications if the temperature in your home rises or falls above or below a set threshold. For homeowners who travel frequently or who own a second home, these devices offer the ability to remotely monitor their property.
Key Considerations for Using Your Smart Thermostat
During cold temperatures, with a more traditional thermostat, you turn down the temperature when you leave your home and dial it back up when you return. With a smart thermostat app controlled by your phone, you are able, and might be more motivated, to turn down your system to a low temperature to conserve energy from wherever you may be. But be wary as turning the thermostat down too low could result in frozen pipes, Travelers Risk Control professionals warn. Be sure to keep the temperature at 55°F or higher to help keep the interior of the floor and wall cavities, where water piping can be located, above freezing temperatures.
As part of the Internet of Things, smart thermostats are also subject to hacking and privacy concerns. You may think there is less of a safety concern than with smart locks or other security-related smart devices, as there is less incentive for hackers to target these devices. However, smart thermostats can provide details about your daily comings and goings, which a thief could find insightful.
A prudent step would be for homeowners to make sure their devices are hard-wired to the Internet, rather than relying on a Wi-Fi connection. Choose a strong password and evaluate any specific safety concerns before you decide to buy a smart thermostat. As with any smart device, make sure it is compatible with your other devices or hub because not all devices communicate well with each other. The packaging for these smart devices may not offer detailed installation instructions, so you may want to consult a professional to help install them properly.
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 weatherstripping 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 tuneup 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.
You’ve decided it's time to replace your outdoor deck and you’re ready to take it on as a DIY project, or you’ve decided to work with a licensed and bonded contractor for the heavy lifting. Before you start on such a critical project, it’s important to know that decking options have grown over the last several years, bringing new choices in composite plastic and wood products from which to construct your deck.
While they often cost more than wood, composite materials offer the promise of greater durability and less maintenance. Wood is still the most common choice for deck material, but it doesn't last forever. Composites may be more durable, but they might lack the natural look and color you are looking for.
In June 2016, CBS News reported that while wood products still have a command on the market, composites are growing in popularity. Synthetic wood commands about 16 percent of the $7 billion-per-year deck market and appear to be gaining some traction.
From cost to maintenance and durability to look, there are many things to think about as you decide between composite or wood for your next deck. Here are some pros and cons to consider before you decide which product to buy.
Calfee Insurance wants to help you protect the things that matter to you. We offer a wide breadth of products so you can be covered at home and on the road.
Pros of Composite Decking
Conventional wisdom has long held that kitchens and baths sell homes. Those are also two of the more expensive areas to tackle for home improvement, but if you make sound design decisions and choose the right materials, you could end up making your home more appealing to potential buyers – and a more enjoyable place for you to live. And, if you’re handy, some of these ideas may even be great DIY (do-it-yourself) home projects.
A study from the National Association of Realtors1 confirms that kitchens and baths still top the list of interior home improvement projects that appeal most to potential buyers. The survey ranked the projects by the percentage of the remodel cost that would likely be recovered based on the home’s resale value after the remodel. These five home improvements can potentially provide the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to ROI.
1. Complete Kitchen Renovation
National Association of the Remodeling Industry’s (NARI®) cost estimate for the project: $68,000
REALTORS® estimated cost recovered: $40,000
Percent of value recovered from the project: 59%
The look and feel of a kitchen can serve as shorthand for how up to date the owners have kept a house. Potential buyers have been known to rule out homes based on kitchens alone. Stainless steel appliances and granite countertops continue to be on many buyers’ checklists, especially those who want to move right in and start entertaining.
The top reason for renovating a kitchen, cited by 24% of homeowners, was to upgrade worn-out surfaces, finishes and materials. According to the Remodeling Impact Report, 10% of realtors said a completely renovated kitchen most recently helped them clinch a deal, resulting in a closed sale.
2. Kitchen Upgrade
NARI’s cost estimate for the project: $38,300
REALTORS® estimated cost recovered: $20,000
Percent of value recovered from the project: 52%
A less expensive alternative to completely gutting a kitchen is an upgrade to the current design. Replacing dated appliances, refinishing cabinets and changing out tile backsplashes are some cost-effective updates that can still modernize a kitchen and make it more appealing to buyers.
While 12% of realtors suggest that sellers completely remodel their kitchens, 57% have suggested a kitchen upgrade. Twenty percent of realtors have said a kitchen upgrade most recently helped complete a deal. In addition to the resale value, kitchen improvements can also help you enjoy your time in your home, with better functionality and livability cited by 29% of respondents as the most important result of their remodel.
Travelers wants to help you protect the things that matter to you. We offer a wide breadth of products so you can be covered at home and on the road.
3. Bathroom Renovation
NARI’s cost estimate for the project: $35,000
REALTORS® estimated cost recovered: $20,000
Percent of value recovered from the project: 57%
Bathrooms are another place where a home can show its age, and potential buyers may hesitate at the cost and work involved in remodeling an outdated bathroom after buying a home. Still, while 33% of realtors have suggested sellers complete a bathroom renovation before completing a sale, only 4% said the project most recently helped them complete a deal.
4. New Bathroom
NARI’s cost estimate for the project: $60,000
REALTORS® estimated cost recovered: $30,000
Percent of value recovered from the project: 50%
A remodeling decision often driven by function rather than a desire to modernize, adding a new bathroom is nearly as expensive as completely remodeling a kitchen, but with less of a “wow factor” for potential buyers. With only 5% of realtors suggesting that sellers add a bathroom and only 1% saying the project most recently helped clinch a deal for them, this may be one project that makes more sense for homeowners planning to be in their homes for several years.
5. New Master Suite/Owners’ Suite
NARI’s cost estimate for the project: $150,000
REALTORS® estimated cost recovered: $75,000
Percent of value recovered from the project: 50%
The costliest project on the list, a new master suite or owner’s suite, is another project that may have greater value to you while living in the home rather than in making it attractive to future buyers. Sixty-five percent of respondents said they have a greater desire to be home since completing the project. Only 3% of realtors have suggested that sellers complete an owner’s suite before attempting to sell, and less than 1% said the project most recently helped clinch a deal for them.
Still deciding where to focus your budget for home improvement? Make a list of the reasons you’re considering each project, and be sure to consider the impact on your home insurance, too. Want to attract future buyers and increase the value of your home? Kitchens and bathrooms remain a good place to start.
If you plan to remain in your home for a number of years, you may want to update a bedroom, add a bathroom, convert a basement to a living area or tackle any other project that will add to your own appreciation of where you live.
If you rent an apartment or home, you might not be thinking about insurance. After all, you don’t own the building and your landlord may have insurance in case something happens. But if your living room is damaged in a fire, your landlord’s policy likely won’t cover your brand new laptop or your vintage vinyl record collection.
Renters insurance helps protect your personal property inside your apartment — your electronics, furniture and clothing — unlike a homeowners policy that generally covers the building as well as what’s inside. In insurance speak, protection for your personal property is also known as “contents coverage.” And, as a renter, if you invest in updating items such as built-in appliances or bathroom fixtures, you may be able to apply a percentage of your contents coverage to repair or replace what has been damaged.
Renters insurance can also protect your personal possessions from theft, fire, vandalism and other hazards, both at home and anywhere in the world. So if there’s a theft at the hotel you’re staying at while on vacation, your renters insurance may help you replace your stuff the same way it would if your things were stolen from your apartment.
Protecting You, Along with What’s Inside Your Apartment
It’s not just your possessions that renters insurance coverage can help protect. It can also help protect you. In case a claim is brought against you or you are sued by a third party, your renters personal liability coverage can help to cover the legal costs and related damages. Many renters policies provide a minimum of $100,000 of financial protection that may help if someone claims injuries or damages while in your apartment, or caused by your personal activities or those of your household members.
For example, if you are found legally responsible for accidental fire damage to the building where you live, liability coverage in a renters insurance policy may provide financial protection. This liability protection may also extend to any vacation property that you rent.
Like homeowners insurance, renters insurance can pay for necessary additional living expenses if you are unable to live in your apartment due to a fire or other loss that your insurance policy covers. You can also opt to purchase additional coverage for your valuable possessions that might have limited coverage in a typical policy, such as jewelry, fine art or silver.
Things to Know About Renters and Landlord Insurance
So, while your landlord’s insurance policy may protect the building itself in which you live, it likely doesn’t cover anything inside your apartment that belongs to you. A renters insurance policy can help give you peace of mind that you — and your stuff — have protection from unexpected events, both at home and wherever your travels take you.