Monday, August 24, 2020


Preparing for Hurricane Damage!

Because nature is unpredictable, let us help you prepare for the worst and sleep a little easier. These valuable tips can proactively keep you, your family, and your possessions as safe as possible during a hurricane.

It’s good to review your policy with your agent for a detailed explanation of your coverage as it relates to natural disaster catastrophes. 

We know the dramatic effect hurricanes can have, both the initial wind and rain and the floods and devastation that follow. There are steps you can take to stay safe and reduce damage to your property in the event of a storm.

Note that neither home nor business insurance covers flood damage from a hurricane, including floods from storm surges. Your local independent agent can help you purchase a policy through the National Flood Insurance Program.

Before a Hurricane    

*Install storm shutters.
* Remove yard debris that could become flying missiles.
* Have a safe place to park your cars and/or store your boat.
* Make sure you, your family and/or employees know how to shut off utilities.
* Look through your emergency kit to ensure it is fully stocked and up to date with necessities for all household members, including pets.
* Back up computer records and store them at least 50 miles off site.
* Gather important papers to take with you if you must evacuate, including inventory lists and insurance information.

During a Hurricane

* Know your community's evacuation plan and, if asked to evacuate, do so immediately.
* Stay inside and away from windows, skylights and glass doors. Avoid elevators. 
* Avoid washed out and wet roads that can hide downed electrical lines or underlying currents that can carry your vehicle away.

After a Hurricane 

Water is a major cause of damage after hurricanes. The longer your house is exposed to water, the more damage you’ll see to your roof, ceiling, walls, and floors, as well as any personal belongings inside. After the storm has passed, it’s important to dry out any water damaged inside your home.

* Open windows and doors to allow air to circulate and speed up the drying process.
* Board up broken windows and doors.
* Cover roof damage with tarps or plywood.
* Save receipts for any temporary repair expenses.
* Cover broken car windows with tarps or plastic sheeting.
* Move any wet items to a dry place
* If possible, place any damaged items in a safe, secure area where they can be inspected later 

The most important thing is to make sure you and your family are safe
Things can be replaced.

Have other questions? Need a quote?


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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Vacation Home Insurance


   After all, you aren't there all the time. You don't have nearly as much personal property there. Do you really need to insure it? Yes. Yes you do.

 You're right, you aren't there all the time. If no one is there, how will anyone notice a leak? Or catch a fire before it blazes out of control? What if you get burglarized? Chances are no one will be there to prevent or at least handle these situations on a timely basis. This means the damage could be much worse than it would have been if someone lived there full time. These are high risks you don't want to pay for on your own. 

   Many vacation homes are in rural or beach areas. Let's say you are there when one of those situations occurs, but the fire /police departments are miles away and they take 30 minutes to get there. A fire can destroy an entire home in that amount of time. A leak can destroy your entire flooring. A burglar can empty your home. These are a high risks you don't want to pay for on your own. 

   What if you rent it out or let friends/family stay there when you are not there?  Somone trips over a rug and breaks their leg. Or someone starts a fire in the kitchen and can't get it out. You can be liable for injuries and or damages, even if you are not there. These are high risks you don't want to pay for on your own.

   You have worked hard to buy that secondary home for your family to enjoy. If something happens, you want to make sure you have adequate coverage for that vacation home, just like you do for your primary home. 

Just like your primary home insurance, there are many optional coverages and many carriers to choose from. Talk to your agent and work through what you want and need in coverage. Most primary home policies will not extend much coverage to a secondary property. So you will need a separate policy for your vacation home.

There are few options I urge you to consider.

Personal Umbrella Policy (PUP): This is an extra Liability policy that will pick up where your home/auto policies stop. So if you have a liability claim of $500,000 and you only have $300,000 in Liability coverage on your secondary home policy, your PUP will kick in and cover the rest. The more properties, cars and toys (boats, motorcycles...) you have, the higher the premium will be for the PUP. But the added coverage can be a financial life saver.

Fair Rental Income: If you are renting out your secondary home, I highly recommend this coverage. If the home becomes uninhabitable (therefore un-rentable) due to a covered loss, you can be paid the rents you would lose during the time it takes to repair the damage. 

Coverge Amount: As I explained up above, you are more likely to have extensive damage from a fire, leak or burglary because you are not there full time. Make sure you have enough dwelling coverage to cover a total loss. Don't go cheap because you don't use the home as often. You need complete coverage because of the lack of time you spend there. 

Every carrier is a different in what they will/will not cover, what type of policies they will/will not write. So, I wouldn't get your heart set on "bundling" by trying to make sure your secondary home policy is with the same carrier as your primary home policy. That is not always an option (your primary home carrier may not even write secondary homes). Sometimes they won't have the best rate. So be open to the quotes your agent offers you. Of course, if you are with a captive carrier, you won't have many options. Again- I urge you to find an independent agent and see what they have to offer. 

Have other questions? Need a quote?


* Call  877-987-8683 

Monday, May 18, 2020

Boat Insurance Basics

Who is ready to sail away?

It's only a few weeks until summer officially begins. 

The pandemic has dictated new rules and regulations around questions like Am I allowed to take my boat out? What is safe? What does social distancing look like? For those who are planning to go boating, take a look at this article by Discover Boating: Boating during Covid-19.

Whether you are going boating this summer or not, 
                           your insurance coverage is important!

   Watercraft insurance coverage goes beyond the scope of a standard home or auto policy to include Roadside Assistance, which covers towing of your boat or personal watercraft for free, as long as your trailer is covered; On-Water Towing, in case you're stranded on the water; and Uninsured Boaters coverage. Many carriers have additional coverage like Fuel Spill Liability and Wreckage Removal, even Pet injury. Without watercraft insurance coverage, you may end up getting stuck with the bill for cleanups and removals. Personal Effects and Fishing Equipment coverage are also available. They do not come as basic coverage on all watercraft policies, so make sure you talk to your agent about your coverage. When you file a claim is NOT the best time to find out you were not covered when you thought you were!
   Most carriers have several available discounts also, similar to auto policies. If you are a homeowner, have good driving history (no tickets/accidents), if you are the original owner, if you pay in full, if you have taken a safety course. Each carrier is different so be sure to talk with your agent about what you may qualify for.

   Summer is a great time to have fun out on the lake. Make sure you are protected through your insurance policy. But also make sure you are following boating safety processes also. Did you know someone is injured or killed in a boating accident every 2 1/2 hours? The chance of drowning while wearing a life jacket is 1 in 66. The chance of drowning while not wearing a life jacket is 1 in 11.  These statistics, along with great boating safety advice can be found through the US Coast Guard's Boating Safety Resource Center.

Have a great summer And Be Safe Out There!

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Friday, April 17, 2020

Home Based Business

Do You Need Insurance for Your Home Based 

 Many people are having to adjust to working at home right now. If you have been laid off, maybe you are considering starting a home-based business. Dog walker, free lance writer/photographer, consultant, stylist. If you are working from home for your employer, make sure you are still covered under their Liability policy. If you are going to work for yourself, you need to know how to protect yourself and your business. 

Do you need insurance from the start? 
      Do you need insurance at all? 
               What if you only do this part time?

Yes!   Yes!  and  Yes!

Many home-based business owners believe their Homeowners policy will cover their business. But homeowner's policies EXCLUDE business coverage. Commercial risk is different from personal risk, so the policies contain different types of coverage. You want an insurance policy built for your business needs. You want a policy built for your protection. 

The Business Owners Policy

There are many policy options in commercial insurance (too many to list in one blog post.) But the most common type of policy for small businesses is the Business Owners Policy (BOP). It usually combines  coverage a business would need into one policy.

Three types of coverage in the BOP.

General Liability:  This covers your company's legal responsibility for any harm it may cause to others. What you and your employees do or fail to do in your business operations may cause bodily injury or property damage due to defects in products, faulty installations and the errors in service you provide 
Business Property:  This covers two types of business property.  It covers the buildings themselves (which you won't need much of if yours is a home-based business) and the contents owned by the company (Business Personal Property). This would be furniture, laptop and supplies, as well as other equipment you may use in your business. 
Business Interruption: This covers the loss of income if your business operations are interrupted by a covered claim. It includes the extra expense of operating out of another space temporarily if your building is uninhabitable. (I am going to assume most carriers will not include this in policies written during the pandemic.) 

There is other coverage in a BOP, depending on the type of business. If you sell products there would be different coverage than if you sell insurance. But these are the main concerns for small business owners. Most BOPs are a minimum of $500 annually. They can be much more expensive depending on the business and the limits of coverage. But for a small home-based business that doesn't have high risk or high amounts of business personal property, they are generally inexpensive.

Other Types of Commercial Policies
Other Commercial policy types include Commercial Auto, Worker's Compensation and Professional Liability (Errors and Omissions). You can also get a General Liability or Commercial Property policy as a separate policy. They don't only come in the combination form of a BOP.

   Business owners looking for the the most cost effective way to protect their business should work with agents who have access to multiple insurance carriers. You can go through your area Chamber of Commerce or the Small Business Administration to find an agent near you. Or you can call us! 

Have questions? Need a quote?    
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Thursday, March 26, 2020

Coronavirus effects on insurance

Coronavirus And My Insurance Policies

I know people are wondering if this pandemic will affect their home and auto policy premiums

It can, but it shouldn't

Your premium will most likely change at your next renewal, but that is common. There is no way to know exactly how the effects of this pandemic will affect premiums in the future. When companies lose money, they generally increase premiums to gain it back. But for now, your premium should stay the same unless you make changes, such as adding coverage.

My neighbor said I should lower my auto coverage

You may hear it is a good idea to lower your coverage on your auto policy since you won't be driving much for a while. I would caution against this. If you cancel the policy, it is illegal for you to drive- anywhere. If you lower your coverage and have an accident, you will pay much more out of pocket expenses for the damage. We do not know how long we may have to stay in our homes. We may need to drive because of an emergency. Think long and hard about the possible consequences before you make changes.

Can I still get a hold of my agent?

If you are looking for a new policy or need service work done, this should not be affected by the pandemic. Most insurance can be done by phone, fax and email. I know many agents have closed their office locations, but many of those have set up a way to work from home. If you don't get an answer when you stop by, call. If you don't get an answer when you call, email your agent. 

How is my carrier reacting to all of these changes?

Most of the carriers are working from home also. They have set up systems so their workers can answer phones and email from home. Many of them have offered payment deferrals for 30-60 days. This is for people directly affected by the coronavirus (loss of job or contracting the virus would qualify) But keep in mind, you will still have to pay your premiums eventually and you may have less time to pay it in, leading to higher payments you have to make down the road.

I know these are scary and uncertain times. I know many will have to make tough decisions. Whether your insurance is valid shouldn't be one of them!

Have questions? Need a quote?    
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Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Roof coverage

Who Cares How Old My Roof Is?

   When quoting a home, one of the first questions we ask is, "How old is your roof?" Often the response is, "Why does it matter?" 

Why does it matter?

Roofing and foundation are the start and finish of your home. If one of them is damaged, the rest of the house is in danger as well. This is why insurance carriers are interested. If your roof is in poor shape, the chances of a claim are greater. Which is exactly what carriers want to avoid. Insurance is there to make you whole again in the case of a loss. But carriers do not want to have to pay claims. They will (if the loss is covered), but it costs them more money than you have paid them. So it isn't very cost effective for their bottom line. And trust me, while they are providing a very needed and valuable service, profit is a priority.

Why does it seem to be an issue in Texas?

   In Texas, we have storms, many, many storms. Texas has the most volatile weather of any state. We have wind, hail, tornadoes, hurricanes, even a few earthquakes! Your roof is the first line of defense for a home during a storm. It is the first part damaged, which leads to damage for the rest of the home. It is a huge risk to insure.
   Most carriers will send out inspectors to look at the home they are insuring. This is a business practice. They are not trying to find a reason to not insure your home. They are making sure your home is a risk they are willing to cover. Since they are the ones paying out thousands, possible hundreds of thousands, they do get to decide if they want to insure the risk. This inspection is not the same as the pre-sale inspection. I have seen the carrier inspection come back with a very different view of the home than the pre-sale inspection. The carrier's inspector results are the ones the carrier will use. The two inspections have different goals. The pre-sale inspector is there to evaluate the condition of the home for move in. The carrier's inspector is there to evaluate the RISK involved in insuring the home.  The most common issues found are fences and the roof. Thankfully, most carriers will give the insured 30-45 days to get the issue fixed or find another insurance policy. But if you don't repair the issue, you will most likely run into the same problem with the next carrier. 

Who decides if the risk is worth insuring?

   Sometimes, we run into customers who want to debate whether the carrier is right or not. I want to get this point across to the consumers out there. You can argue all you want. But in the end, it is the carrier who will have to cover the cost of replacing your roof or any other claim. They have the final decision as to whether or not they want to insure a risk. 
   This can be so frustrating to both the insured and the agent. Our goal, as agents, is to keep you insured. Your goal, as consumers, is to stay insured. We both need the carriers if we are to maintain our goals. Since they set the rules and guidelines, we are subject to those rules and guidelines. 

Who watches the carriers?

   The carriers are not out there setting whatever limits and premiums they want. Insurance is one of the most regulated industries. Each state has a Department of Insurance that governs what the carriers can and cannot charge, cover and pay out. So again- you can debate all you want, but the rules and guidelines are set long before you buy your insurance. The gray area lies in the hands of the carrier as to whether they will insure a risk. Now, whether they will pay a claim once they have agreed to insure your home is a different story (and a different post). 

When shopping for home insurance...

   When you are shopping for home insurance, be honest with your agent. Tell him/her about your claims history and the age and condition of the home. This will help the agent place you in the correct policy from the start. Different carriers allow different levels of risk. Some will require a different deductible amount if your roof is over 10 years old. Some will require a higher deductible for an older roof. Give your agent all of the details so he can offer you the most suitable choices. And if you recieve a cancelation notice because of conditions of your home, take it seriously. Either get it fixed or get with your agent and see if he/she can find you a different policy!

Have questions? Need a quote?   
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Thursday, February 20, 2020

Do Trees Affect Your Foundation?

Should They Stay or Should They Go?

   I love trees. I climbed them as a child. I am amazed at their beauty as an adult. They serve a great purpose, both as something beautiful to admire and as a natural resource. Trees in a yard can make a house look fantastic. But trees can be dangerous to home. They need to be planted a certain distance from the home, depending on the tree and its root system. If you are planting a new tree or evaluating an existing tree in your yard, call an arborist. Do it right, or you can cause a major damage to your home's foundation.

   Trees can cause foundation damage in 3 ways:

1. Physical contact with your foundation.
2. Affecting the moisture content of the soil under or near your foundation.
3. Causing air gaps and shifting soil due to decaying roots under or near a foundation.

   Larger trees are a bigger concern with physical contact. Obviously, the larger the roots, the more damage may occur. The roots can extend more than 3 times the height of the tree. So if you have a 50 foot tree, it's roots may grow out to 150 feet away from the tree. The proximity of the tree to your house can make a huge difference. A good gauge is if your tree has limbs near or over your home, its roots are probably growing under your foundation. If you have a Pier and Beam foundation (usually found in older homes), this is less of a concern. Slab foundations sit on the soil and is more easily affected by root pressure.

   Trees can affect the moisture content of the soil under and around your foundation. This is a concern if your foundation is "floating" on that soil (slab foundation). Trees transpire (draw in) water through their roots. And where are their roots? In the ground. If the tree is too close to your home, it is drawing moisture from the soil supporting your foundation and it will begin to recede. If you are not watering the entire perimeter of your home's foundation, it will recede much quicker. If you are not watering around your perimeter, the tree roots will look for water elsewhere. And the closest place for them to find it is under your home. They will grow out, looking for an adequate water supply. If you keep it watered and your trees are set the right distance away from your foundation, you are less likely to have foundation damage. 

Tree Removal

   If you have trees removed, make sure the entire root system is removed and the gap is filled in. If the roots are left, there will be gaps when they decay. Your soil will shift to fill those gaps, causing your foundation to shift. If your tree has many years of life left, it is often recommended to steer the roots away from the house, rather than remove the tree. If the tree is near the end of its life, removal is recommend.
   Again- call an arborist when dealing with trees. There are lasting consequences of improper planting, maintenance and removal of trees. They are beautiful and a wonderful resource, but they must be maintained properly or they become a hazard for your home. Insurance carriers will not insure foundation repairs due to wear and tear. Letting a tree root system grow into your foundation is wear and tear. Not watering your foundation properly is wear and tear (and neglect!).  As a homeowner, this is one of your responsibilities. Take good care of your foundation. It is the entire base your home rests upon!

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Monday, February 10, 2020

How important are insurance reports?

There are several different reports insurance carriers will run before thy will insure you. There are credit reports, claims history reports, payment history reports, violations reports. Home and Auto insurance carriers will both utilize these reports. This is the part where your history will affect your rates!

Can I Lie About My Driving History?

You can try, but it won't work. All carriers run your history reports before (or sometimes after) they write your policy. Most run the reports before they will bind the policy. Your reports largely determine your rates so they can be very significant in your pricing.

The CLUE report provides a 7 year history of claims associated with the driver/car. It will show the date of the loss, the type of loss, the amount paid out and the driver and car associated with the claim. Your agent can send you your CLUE report and you can dispute any claims that are on your report in error. 

The Motor Vehicle Report (MVR) provides your driving history, your drivers license history (including suspension or cancellations), your traffic violations/citations and DUI convictions. The time frame of the MVR varies by state. 

Why Home Insurance Reports?

Home insurance claims are filed less frequently than auto claims of course. They will be different than the auto reports, but what they are looking at is the same;  your claims history. 

Catastrophe claims shouldn't affect your rates too much. These include tornadoes, hurricanes, hail storms. The industry decides if it is a CAT claim once the estimated claims from the "storm" reach a certain amount. 
Water Claims will affect your rates due to the price of repairs. It does not take long for water to cause expensive damage.
Liability claims will affect your rates. It shows a concerning lack of safety and upkeep at your home. 
Negligence claims will cost you , you may have a hard time finding a carrier who will insure you at all. And again, you can lie or not disclose, but the carrier will run reports and the claims (and their circumstances) will be found. 
Frequent claims filing will cost you in premium and by minimizing the number of carriers who will insure you. If you believe a claim should be filed, wait! Call out a certified contractor and get estimates! If you file a claim and it turns out the repairs will cost less than your deductible, the carrier will NOT pay out the claim. But you will still have the claim in your history. 

Why Do Carriers Use These Reports?

Home and Auto insurance carriers use these reports to decide how great the risk is to insure you.  The greater the risk (bad history), the higher the rates. So a clean driving or claims history will earn you better rates. Most carriers will look back 5 years. 

Your claims history is very important to your rates. You can lie all you want. We have had people tell us they have not had any claims and then we find out they do. "Oh I forgot about that" seems to be the common retort.  The reports will show your history, whether you have revealed it yourself or not and it will affect your rates. So be honest with your carrier for consistent rates. Carriers rate claims and violations differently, so where one carrier may choose to not insure you, another carrier may have decent rates for you. So don't lose heart and decide insurance is a luxury you cannot afford!

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