Dealing with the Effects of Hurricane Sandy

Written by Mary Davis

Our thoughts are going to friends and family on the East Coast who have just survived the devastating Hurricane Sandy. We are keeping you all close to our hearts as you survey the damages.

We have put together a story that gives tips around recovering the losses around a water-logged home and preparing it to be sold and getting ready for a move. Lockboxer is a great way to capture the details of any items that were lost and Moveboxer is a good spot to get a mover once you are ready for that (who can even think of that right now?).

We hope these tips are helpful and good luck to you in your clean-up efforts.

A How-To for Homeowners Insurance

By Kylie Gilbert

In light of the hurricane and earthquake we’ve seen cause devastation to the United States in just the past two months alone, we thought it was important to get the scoop on homeowners insurance.  We spoke with five different agents, Mike Coleman, Noah J. Bank, Hyacinth Tucker, David Flaig, and Billy Van Jura, all from various regions around the country, to get the scoop on homeowners insurance and how they think Lockboxer is a great tool to help you out.

Why is it smart to get homeowners insurance?

“A home is most folk’s biggest investment.  It needs to be protected from the unexpected by homeowners insurance,” Coleman stated simply.  Unfortunately, no one is immune to house fires, bursting pipes, or the damage from natural disasters, something countless Americans, including myself, witnessed this week after Hurricane Irene struck.

“Property loss happens every day to those who’ve said it will ‘never happen to me.’ Buying a policy makes smart financial sense to help lessen the expense of having to re-buy everything you already own,” said Bank.

Good news is, homeowners insurance is usually a requirement with a mortgage, at least in an amount adequate to cover the remainder of the mortgage loan, Coleman pointed out.  Your policy should cover you for liability as well; something important in the “sue happy society” we live in, Flaig said.  In his opinion, it is the liability aspect that’s the most important part of a homeowner’s policy, protecting the owner against a lawsuit.

What should someone look for in a policy?

According to Coleman, you should make sure you have adequate coverage to replace your home, as opposed to the depreciated value option.  Flaig suggests simply finding the rebuilding estimate per square foot in your area and multiplying by the size of the home in order to make sure that your coverage is enough to pay for a complete rebuild.

But what else besides the basic coverage?  Coleman recommends choosing a policy that extends the policy payout by about 20-25% if possible, as well as replacement cost coverage on your contents.  However, valuing your contents isn’t always easy.  You will likely be given a blanket amount of 70-75% of the dwelling value of the home, but if your home has collectibles, artwork, or other valuables, these would need to be accounted for separately, Van Jura explains.

In addition to the items in your home, Bank advises off-premise theft coverage for those who don’t travel light, or keep lots of valuables in their car.   “It could be a costly jump in price, but may be worthwhile,” he says.

Not sure what to do about your deductible?  Choose one that’s “high enough to keep your premium manageable, but not so high that it will put you in a financial bind should you have a claim,” says Coleman.  And lastly, don’t forget to get enough liability coverage to cover your assets in our ever-litigious society!

What should someone look for in an agent?

Since your homeowner’s insurance policy is clearly one of the most important aspects of purchasing a home, the agent that helps you put together your policy is also critical.  You want an agent that you can build a relationship with and someone who is willing to be accessible to answer all of your questions and address your needs, Tucker says.

Van Jura cautions against agents that don’t spend enough time getting to your customized solution.  “If they have not asked you a few dozen questions in regards to the details of your home you should wonder where the figures are coming from,” he says.  He suggests being on your guard when purchasing a home for the first time because your agent may assume you should just insure your home for the purchase price, clearly a big no-no.

“A good agent should be able to set the expectation for the customer and then live up to it,” says Flaig.  While an agent generally can’t affect the outcome of a claim, they should be able to make sure that the claim is handled quickly and fairly, he explains.

Why do you like Lockboxer as a home inventory tool?

“I’ve dealt with clients who have suffered terrible home losses.  One of the hardest things about it is valuing your contents for the claims personnel.  Lockboxer is a great tool to use for that.  I was very impressed,” Coleman said.

Lockboxer is a great tool to determine the value of your belongings. It’s quick, easy to use, and has accurate information,” said Tucker.

“We always recommend taking inventory of the things our clients own, and Lockboxer makes that process even easier by showing the replacement cost in real time, and enabling you to add it, run totals and upload receipts!  There’s no better way!” Bank said.

Lockboxer seems to do a good job of aggregating a lot of information.  Rather than combing multiple sites you can get a gauge of the used and new prices of the items you are looking to replace,” said Van Jura.

Thanks to all our contributors to this article:

Mike Coleman
is a State Farm Insurance Agent in Lineville, AL.

Noah J. Bank is an Insurance Agent and Broker with The B&G Group in Plainview, NY.

Billy Van Jura is the Founder and Owner Operator at Birchyard LLC in Poughkeepsie, NY

Hyacinth Tucker is an Allstate Personal Financial Representative in Crofton, MD.

David Flaig is a Farmers Insurance agent in San Mateo, CA

It’s not the 1800s anymore … that’s why you get homeowners insurance

We enlisted the help of independent insurance agent Ryan Hanley to tell us more about why and how to get homeowners insurance.

Q: Why is it smart to get homeowners insurance?

A: Because this isn’t the 1800s anymore. If your house burned to the ground and you didn’t have insurance the community is not going to rally around you and rebuild your house.  It’s just gone and you don’t have a house anymore.  Furthermore, most municipalities are going to place the burden of debris removal on you as the former homeowner.  Insurance is a low-cost way to protect against damage to your home. How many of your friends are willing to say “You give me $500 a year and if your house burns down I’ll give $250,000.”  Even if you have owned a home for 30 years you are paying $15,000 for $250,000 in the event of something horrible happening.

Homeowners insurance is a no-brainer.

Q: What should someone look for in a policy?

A: People should look for an insurance agent who is familiar with their community.  Every geographic area has unique features that only a local agent is going to be aware of and help to insure against. Consumers are not supposed to be experts in insurance.  Ask around for referrals, find an agent you are comfortable with and let that person guide you through the process.

Q: What should someone look for in an agent?

A: The consumer needs to be comfortable communicating with their agent.  In order to properly insure a person’s home the agent and consumer should engage in honest communication about the risks unique to that home.  Look for a stable professional with a good knowledge of the community.

Q: Why do you like Lockboxer as a home inventory tool?

A: Because home inventory should be a mandatory part of buying insurance.  I’ve seen far too often people forget to claim items or not have proof of purchase for an item after a loss.  Lockboxer takes care of this.  Again, no-brainer.

Ryan Hanley is an independent insurance agent based in Albany, NY. You can follow him on twitter or learn more at Facebook.

The Basics of Homeowners Insurance

By Marc Castro, editor of Property Community and Move Forward

The reason why property, or homeowners, insurance is encouraged is for protection and compliance. The protection aspect of insurance becomes paramount when loss or damage occurs on the property. With insurance coverage, there is a source of compensation if and when the damage occurs. The compliance aspect becomes needed as the law requires that property should have insurance coverage to cover any injury or loss that may occur within the property’s boundaries.

Purchasing property insurance that has the right protection and compliance clauses is quite tricky as these two are directly related to the cost of the insurance coverage. This cost is called the premium and this is the expense that many property owners would bear during the pendency of the insurance cover. The following are the tips in purchasing property insurance with the right protection and compliance clauses.

Review the insurance offered. The first step in purchasing property insurance is to determine the coverage provided. One part of the coverage is directly related to the location of the property, be it within a brushfire belt or hurricane alley. These characteristics of the property location, including its proximity to a body of water would require special kinds of insurance coverage. Thus, your insurance cover may require fire, hurricane and flood insurance. The key here is reviewing the cover if it appropriate to the property to be insured. Having an inapplicable insurance clause, such as flood insurance when the property is at the middle of the desert, would mean a waste of resources in the purchase of the offered insurance cover.

Reviewing the current income. Many fail to see that insurance coverage is an investment for the future and not a mere burdensome expense. Payment of the premiums of the insurance is one’s way of protecting a risk that may occur in the future. Failure to pay for the premiums would mean putting yourself and the property at greater risk since the loss would mean a non reimbursable loss. It is important that one’s income is reviewed and double checked in order to be updated on the payments of the insurance premium. Failure to pay may mean forfeiture of previous payments as well as loss of the protection and compliance clauses that insurance coverage provides.

Reviewing the coverage with the insurer. When you are offered insurance coverage, it is important to review all the clauses of the insurance with your broker or agent, as this clarifies much of the legal jargon used in insurance policies. Control the conversation and as the client, you are entitled to asking all the questions to be enlightened as to the contract you are entering as well as the benefits you are entitled under the coverage.

As can be seen, insurance is one part of property ownership that is mandatory under the law. Property, or homeowners insurance, is complex, so proper review of the cost, coverage and benefits is essential to be put at ease that your property is amply protected as well as compliant with the precepts of the law.

For a more comprehensive discussion on property insurance coverages, do visit us at Property Community.