There are many common myths about potential dangers in and around the home that can keep some homeowners up at night. However, the gap between myth and fact can make all the difference when it comes to reducing risk in your house. So what does the data tell us are the biggest risks to your home?
From leaking valves to house fires, Claim data reveals the facts about the most frequent causes of homeowners’ claims, as well as the costliest. The answers may surprise you. While some risks are common nuisances we are all too aware of, others can be catastrophic. To help keep your home, your valuables and your family safe, you will want to take steps to protect them.
Danger #1: Water Damage
Many people think of damage from hurricanes and heavy rains when they think of water damage. But according to Travelers Claim data from 2009-2016, more property losses resulted from non-weather water claims (20%) than weather-related water claims (11%)*. Non-weather water claims can involve plumbing-related losses, such as pipes, drains and valves, as well as appliance issues. Learn more about common causes of water damage and the steps that you can take to help prevent it.
Danger #2: Weather-Related Roof/Flashing Damage
Wind, hail and weather-related water damage accounted for more than half, or 51%, of all Travelers property loss claims between 2009-2016. Falling limbs and branches weighed down by snow and freezing rain can cause roof/flashing damage. It is a good idea to inspect trees on your property to help prevent damage caused by falling tree limbs. Learning how to identify and remove ice dams can also help you avoid costly damage in the winter months.
Danger #3: Frozen Pipe Damage
Frozen water pipes are considered a potential source for catastrophic property damage, and make the list of Travelers’ five costliest sources of homeowner claims. While a sub-item of weather-related water loss, it is so significant, it deserves special mention. The good news is you can take steps to help prevent your pipes from freezing by identifying pipes that are most at risk and taking steps before winter arrives to help insulate them. During the winter, you may consider using a smart thermostat to manage and monitor that your heat is set at a safe level to help avoid freezing, and to receive notifications if the temperature in your home drops unexpectedly.
Danger #4: Theft
Theft from the premises makes the list of top causes of property loss claims, accounting for 6% of losses. There are many steps that you can take to help make your home less attractive to thieves, including landscaping with theft prevention in mind, adding outdoor lighting and creating a plan to make your home appear occupied while you are away. There are a number of methods to monitor your home to help minimize the theft potential, including smart home alarm systems.
Danger #5: Fire
Although fires do not occur as often as other incidents around the home, the damage that they can cause puts fire at the top of the costliest types of claims, according to Claim data from 2009-2016. Fire and related damages accounted for 25% of claims as measured by costs paid out. Fires can start from cooking, overloading circuits, and improperly using a wood stove, among other causes. Learn more about the potential wood stove safety tips, and how to help protect your home.
After a fire, burglary or another event in which you lost possessions from your home, it may be difficult to remember the details of every one of the belongings that you have accumulated over the years. In this situation, having a current inventory of your possessions, including make and model numbers, may help you with any potential insurance claims. Taking the time to document your belongings now can help you recover faster after a loss.
Here are some steps you can use to help build your home inventory checklist.
Step 1: Take the time to walk through your property. Compiling a comprehensive home inventory takes time and effort. The more detailed your inventory, the more useful it will be if you have to make a claim. Document possessions inside your home and on your property that may be of value.
Step 2: Keep your inventory in a safe place. Creating a digital home inventory and storing it off-site will help ensure that it won’t be lost, stolen or damaged during any disaster at your home. You can also create a photo or video inventory and upload it to a cloud-based service.
Step 3: Update your inventory often. When you make a significant purchase, add the information to the inventory while the details are fresh in your mind. This is also a good time to delete items that you have replaced or no longer own.
Step 4: Remember your business assets. While most people think of their home when making an inventory, it is important to document the contents of your business, if applicable, as well.
Step 5: Consider valuable items. Valuable items like jewelry, art, and collectibles may have increased in value since you brought them into your home. Check with your agent, if you have one, to make sure that you have adequate insurance coverage for these items as they may need to be insured separately. Consider putting jewelry or other valuables that you don’t often wear or use in a safe deposit box.
To learn more about ways to protect your home and belongings, check out our homeowners insurance products.
Here's a look at three recent innovations in home security.
A home security system could make you eligible for a property insurance discount, too. Get in touch today to discuss your policy or anything else
As a seasoned homeowner, you’ve been paying off your mortgage and are now considering buying a second home – a place you can retreat to on vacation, an investment property, or maybe even a combination of the two. You’ve been through the home-buying process before so you know what to expect, but there are certain factors unique to buying a second home that you'll want to consider. These factors will vary depending on how you intend to use the property, so it's a good idea to determine if the home will be for mostly personal use or if it will be occupied by tenants.
Here are six essential things you should consider before buying a second home:
1. Can I Afford It?
It may seem like an obvious question, but can you afford a second home? If you choose to take out a mortgage on a new property, take some time to carefully understand the requirements so you’ll be better prepared for the process when submitting your mortgage application.
As a homeowner, you're probably well aware of the strict credit requirements for taking out a mortgage, and things get even more serious when it comes to buying a second home. Your debt-to-income ratio will, of course, be a significant factor, and when it comes to holding two mortgages, you may find it a bit more challenging to balance this ratio. Also, be prepared to shell out a hefty amount for a down payment, since you'll be required to put at least 10 percent down on a vacation home and perhaps an even higher amount if it will be used as an investment property. And don’t forget that a second home will need to be protected, so you’ll want to talk to your homeowners insurance agent about getting a quote, once you’ve got your sights set on a second property to call your own.
2. How Will It Affect My Taxes?
Understanding the tax implications of your new property will be another challenge. If you intend to rent your place to tenants, that means you'll earn rental income throughout the year, and that income will be taxable. As the owner of the home, you also may be able to take deductions in the form of mortgage interest, property taxes, repairs, depreciation, and operating expenses. One of the most important things to do as the landlord is to maintain accurate records of your income and expenses throughout the year in order to properly report the information on your tax return.
3. What Home Expenses Should I Expect?
Just like your primary residence, your second home will also require you to shell out cash for expenses – both expected and unplanned. It’s helpful to have a budget set up for home needs, and with two homes, this may be an even more critical step, since your expenses will be elevated. In addition to the maintenance costs, remember you'll have property taxes, insurance, potential homeowners' association dues and more. If the property is at the beach or in a flood zone, you'll also need to consider things like flood insurance in addition to your regular homeowners policy. And finally, if you plan to rent the property, you'll also need to look into insurance that specifically protects you as a landlord.
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.
4. How Will I Use the Property?
If the property will solely be used for personal vacations, this question isn't as critical. However, if you intend to rent the home occasionally or full time, you'll want to consider your strategy ahead of time. Keep in mind that for mortgage purposes, your lender doesn't consider the income generated from renting the home. Whether you can afford the second property is determined solely based on your credit and debt-to-income ratio. If you plan to rent the home, it's important to build your rental strategy as early in the process as possible to ensure you'll have rental income that can help offset the home's monthly expenses from the start. That will translate to less cash out of your pocket, as long as the tenants are diligent in paying the rent on time.
5. Who Will Maintain the Property?
You’ll want to plan for who will maintain the property to protect your investment. If the investment property is located near your primary home, it may be easy for you to provide the regular maintenance and upkeep of the home, if you’re handy and have the time – and the will – to do those tasks. However, if the property is far from your primary home, you'll need to think about how it will be cared for when you're not staying there. This is especially important if the property is located in an area that’s susceptible to strong storms and hurricanes. Severe weather events can pop up at a moment's notice, and your second home will need to be properly prepared to withstand such weather. If the home will be for your personal use, perhaps you can find a neighbor to keep an eye on the house when you're not there. If you plan to rent the home, consider hiring a rental management company to take care of the general upkeep so you won't have to worry about every little detail from afar.
6. Is the Property in an Ideal Location?
Whether buying a second home for your personal enjoyment or as an investment property, make sure you choose the right location for your needs. You may not get as much use as you’d like from a vacation home that requires extensive travel to get there. And, a rental home in an unpopular locale may lead to months of being unoccupied – which means you’re paying the second mortgage yourself rather than with income from renting it out. In either scenario, ensuring the home is in an ideal area can help provide you with a positive return on investment. If you do intend to rent the property, take some time to research the rental climate in the area before moving forward. The best places to own investment property are often popular vacation destinations and cities with an abundance of career options.
Buying a second home doesn't have to be daunting. In fact, with careful research and planning, it can be a smart investment for your future.
Do you know where most home fires start?
If you guessed the kitchen, you’re right. One of the most popular rooms in the house also has the potential for danger.
But a few simple habits can help prevent damaging fires from ever starting in the first place.
To find a little more peace of mind this season, here are four ways to make your home safer.
1. Don’t walk away from an active stove.
Unattended cooking is a leading cause of kitchen fires. If you need to leave while frying, grilling or broiling, make sure to turn your stove off first. It’s easy to lose track of time when you step away to answer the door or check on the kids, and it doesn’t take long for trouble to start.
2. Keep clutter under control.
It’s not uncommon for kitchen counters to get loaded up with stuff. Make it a priority to clear your kitchen countertops of anything flammable, such as wooden utensils, papers and dish towels, especially around the stove.
3. Use space heaters, fireplaces and woodburning stoves safely.
If you use a space heater during colder months, consider replacing older models with one designed to turn off if it tips over. Position space heaters with a 3-foot distance from everything else and always turn them off before you leave the house or go to sleep.
If your home has a fireplace or wood-burning stove, have it inspected annually by a professional. Use a mesh screen to keep sparks inside the fireplace.
4. Practice candle safety.
As with a stove, a lit candle is an active fire that you shouldn’t leave unattended. Blow out candles before leaving a room and keep burning candles on level surfaces and away from flammable objects, young children and pets.
Have questions about your insurance coverage? Reach out and we’ll be happy to help.
What’s your biggest challenge at home? For many of us, it’s a lack of space.
So how can you carve out an extra bedroom, a home office or a study nook for a school-age child? The answer may not be as out-of-reach as you think.
Here are four solutions for a range of spaces and budgets.
1. Transform the Garage
Are you wishing for a home gym, an artist’s cottage, an office, a family room, an in-law suite or a rental apartment? Your garage may be the answer.
Both attached and unattached garages can be converted into an extra room. To get started, research local building codes and zoning ordinances. If you belong to an HOA, you’ll need to check their rules, too. If you’re doing more than small cosmetic changes, it’s also a good idea to consult with a professional architect, engineer and contractor.
2. Consider a Prefab Shed
Modern and inviting, a prefab shed is an easy way to add a room if you don’t have a garage to work with. And unlike with a garage remodel, you may not need a permit for installation.
3. Convert the Attic or Basement
As with a garage, an attic or basement could be remodeled into an inviting living space for a variety of uses. Consider adding a half-bath and/or kitchenette if you have the budget and want to create an in-law suite or apartment.
4. The “No-Remodel” Option
Finally, there are less expensive and invasive ways to create more space in your home. With more people working remotely, closet offices have become popular. Scan your space for any closets and corners where clutter has accumulated. How could these nooks be put to better use?
Have questions about your insurance coverage? Is there anything else we can help with? Reach out anytime.
This may sound obvious, but selling a house sometimes comes down to just how appealing your home is to potential homebuyers. The attributes that make your house attractive to buyers can include price, the condition of your home and its curb appeal, as well as details like the number of bathrooms, bedrooms and whether the home appears dated. Discerning buyers typically want to walk into a house and immediately feel at home. How quickly you sell your home ‒ and at what price ‒ may depend on your ability to create that I’m-already-at-home feel.
Here are 10 easy home remodeling ideas that can help transform your home sweet home to the gotta-have-it house of your buyer’s dreams.
1. Replace the garage door.
The surprise most home sellers discover ‒ often too late ‒ is that most sellers won’t fully recoup the cost of a renovation when they sell their home. When it comes to getting some bang for your renovating buck, however, the garage door is one suggestion to consider; it also can give a boost to your home’s curb appeal.
2. Upgrade the front door.
A relatively inexpensive yet effective home improvement idea is a new front door ‒ one of the first things a home shopper will notice when they view online photos or arrive for a showing. For example, a new steel door can be both eye‒catching and energy efficient ‒ a boon for cost-conscious buyers-to-be. Or you could consider the pricier installation of a grand entrance ‒ perhaps a new front door with dual skylights ‒ which can help increase the attraction from upscale buyers.
3. Re-face the house.
Another way to help increase your home value is by improving the exterior of your home. A good pressure washing may cost a few hundred dollars and can reduce or remove the unsightly dust, grime and mildew that often clings to exterior siding. For a house with more exterior wear, new siding is a pricey project but one that can help add a dramatic boost and take years off your home’s exterior appearance.
4. Maintain your lawn and refresh landscaping.
You only have one chance to make a great first impression ‒ which is why renovations affecting curb appeal make our list. Home improvements that help add value and appeal to buyers include standard lawn care and landscape maintenance. Consider it a smart investment that can eventually turn out to be money well spent when you’re prepping your house for sale.
5. Refresh the kitchen.
For many homeowners, the kitchen is where guests and family gather, making it one of the top house renovation ideas that come to mind when preparing a home for sale. Still, a major kitchen renovation may not be worth the cost when it comes time to sell; however, smaller, cost-effective upgrades can help make the kitchen more attractive.
Consider replacing laminate countertops with granite and replacing a sink and faucet, for example. Leave cabinet boxes in place but replace out-of-date doors and hardware ‒ or hire a professional to give doors and drawers a fresh coat of paint. Finally, you can replace older appliances with slide-in, energy-efficient, stainless steel models. It’s your call as to whether spending money on these kitchen redo’s is feasible; think about your individual circumstances and what your goal is for selling your home. It also may be helpful to contact your homeowners insurance representative, to make sure that any renovations you’re considering will be covered.
A savvy refresh doesn’t have to include all kitchen elements. Instead, to help save on cost, pick and choose the features that can make the greatest impression within your space.
6. Deep clean and declutter.
When it comes to selling a home, you want to make a great first impression. Messy playrooms, cat or dog odors (even if Fido isn’t home), or an unmade bed can all be a turnoff to potential homebuyers.
That may be why many real estate agents suggest their clients declutter and deep clean before listing their house for sale. While the main living spaces should take center stage, potential homebuyers may open your cabinets, drawers and refrigerator, so be sure to give them a good once-over, too.
7. Hire a professional home stager.
When it comes down to it, the buyers who can envision themselves living in your home are the ones most likely to buy. That’s why staging your home to sell is such a popular tactic. A professional home stager will suggest removing personal items like photographs and excess furniture. Many professionals suggest storing or removing a quarter to half of your possessions, including sofas, bookcases, knickknacks, books and even clothes in your closet.
Still, removing excess stuff is just the start. Stagers may rearrange furniture to highlight features like the fireplace, a view or unique architectural details. They may even suggest that you use a rental service to bring in items to dress up your home and will arrange for that service if you decide to take that advice.
A professional home stager will often cost several hundred dollars, but the investment can help a home sell faster ‒ and often at a higher price than similar homes. To get the biggest bang for your staging buck, stagers recommend focusing on the living room, master bedroom and kitchen, in that order.
8. A fresh coat of interior paint.
Paint has the power to entirely transform a home, particularly if it’s been a while since you upgraded your color scheme or if you happen to love eclectic colors. Neutrals are typically a safe bet ‒ they can create that clean slate feel that give home shoppers a greater ability to see their own belongings in your space.
9. Optimize lighting.
High-quality lighting can help make a room feel larger, more modern and more inviting to potential homebuyers. For daytime showings, open curtains and blinds to bring in as much natural light as you can. Take advantage of accent lighting throughout the day and evening to emphasize art, a reading nook or any other interesting features in your home. If your home still feels dark, try strategically placing a mirror to reflect light and help make a room appear brighter. Alternatively, you can help brighten your space by bringing in a stylish floor or table lamp.
If your fixtures are dated, new dining room and foyer chandeliers can bring a more modern vibe to your space.
10. Make small repairs.
You may be accustomed to the inconvenience of that torn window screen or leaky showerhead but, to a new potential homebuyer, they may be red flags, prompting them to stay alert for any other necessary but unmade home repairs they’ll have to consider when it comes time to make an offer.
Help get ahead of potential problems by doing a walkthrough, looking for any damage or necessary repairs. Then, consider hiring a handyman for the day. To really head off problems, consider hiring your own home inspector to help alert you to unexpected issues you can repair before homebuyers start walking through your home.
Before You Move, Review Your Homeowner’s Insurance Coverage
Selling your home is a good time to review your homeowners coverage. Learn more with us at:
What is the deductible for flood insurance?
A flood policy comes with separate deductibles for the building and its contents. You typically get to choose the deductible amount. Common flood deductibles range from $1,000 to $5,000.
As with other types of insurance, a higher deductible on your flood policy will result in a lower premium; however, if you have a mortgage, your lender may not allow you to increase your deductible beyond specified limits.
What does flood insurance cover?
Flood insurance covers losses directly resulting from flooding or flood-related erosion caused by heavy or prolonged rain, snowmelt, coastal storm surges, blocked storm drainage systems, levee dam failure and similar events.
Flood insurers reimburse policyholders for structural damage, including:
The FEMA flood insurance guide is also a helpful resource that provides details on claims, coverage and costs.
Flood insurance coverage limits
The NFIP lets you insure your house for up to $250,000 and your personal property (contents) for up to $100,000. If you rent, you can buy up to $100,000 in coverage for your belongings. For non-residential property, you can buy up to $500,000 of coverage for the building and contents.
Tips for buying hurricane insurance
Follow these tips to be sure you have adequate hurricane protection for your home.
What does hurricane insurance cover?
There is not a type of insurance specifically called “hurricane insurance.”
So, does homeowners insurance cover hurricane damage?
Most standard homeowners policies will cover damage caused by hurricanes except for flood damage and, in some areas, wind damage.
Those who live along the East Coast or Gulf Coast, which is where hurricanes most often occur in the U.S., may need to buy an additional windstorm coverage policy.
You would also need to buy a separate flood insurance policy. A common misconception is that a homeowners policy covers flood damage. It doesn’t.
What hurricane damage doesn’t cover
Wind damage. Wait, what? Isn't wind practically the definition of a hurricane? And you're telling me that my insurance may not cover me if there's a hurricane?
Well, yes, you may not be covered if there's a ton of wind - and you live in an area that gets a lot of hurricanes.
Now, suppose you live off the beaten path of a hurricane, in, say, Ohio and Indiana, which, believe it or not, can occasionally get the remnants of a hurricane plowing through the neighborhood. In that case, you probably are covered for hurricane winds. But some insurance policies won't cover wind in a hurricane - again if you live in a hurricane zone. If you live in such a place, you may need to buy a separate windstorm insurance policy.
Talk to your insurance agent, though. It's never good to assume anything with insurance.
Flooding. Many insurance policies don't cover flooding unless you have purchased a separate flood insurance policy. If you live anywhere - hurricane zone or not - that sees a lot of flooding, you really should look into purchasing flood insurance.
Mudslides. So, a hurricane created a mudslide, and your house is under that, and your insurance won't cover that? Yeah, you almost certainly aren't covered. Sorry. Insurers have this weird thing about "earth movement." They won't cover you for earthquakes or any time the ground shifts under your house for some reason, and a mudslide is considered, well, the earth moving.
But you might be covered for a mudflow, where a flood brings mud into your home.
Sure, it seems crazy, and you're probably now thinking that this is why some people drink heavily. But insurance companies become very exact when it comes to how they define coverage and natural disasters.
Power failure. Insurers get very exact and weird here, too. Let's say that you have a freezer full of ribs and steak and seafood. You're about to throw a big party. Anyway, the power goes out, and you lose all of that food and are out a lot of money. If this is a one-off incident, where your house lost power, and nobody else did, your policy probably covers that.
Renovating your property has some serious perks, such as creating more space or updating your amenities.
Some upgrades, such as a new roof or security system, can even reduce home insurance costs. While others — like a pool — can have the opposite effect.
Before you take on your next home improvement project, here’s what you should know about how renovations might change your premiums.