Maximum Solutions for Everyday Insurance Problems: Keeping Your Waterfront Home Afloat

flood insurance cartoon  for blogOh the joys of owning a waterfront property: For most buyers, taking the “plunge” and buying a seacoast property is a dream come true: The access to the water, the cool breeze, the view and the increased property value are all tangible benefits.

Until you are hit with the insurance premium.

As a Miami Beach agency with more than 50 years of experience and a specialty in seacoast properties, we understand the shock of the sticker price for windstorm coverage. The fact is that South Florida waterfront homes are often older homes with older roofs, which preclude the homeowner from receiving the maximum credits thereby reducing premiums.

But where there is a problem, we can provide you with a solution. There are contracting companies that fix or install hurricane straps or clips that are typically used in older residential and commercial properties. Having just the third extra nail in the roof trusses makes a significant difference in the windstorm premium. Typically, South Florida homes built prior to 1960 would benefit from the addition of the clips or straps. This addition would not only reduce the home owner’s annual premium significantly, but also keep it lower in subsequent years.

And here’s another worthwhile solution. Retrofitting your roof to meet the current Florida building codes typically generates a 20-50% decrease in your windstorm insurance policy, as well as adding value to your home when it’s time to sell. While it may involve a one-time expense up front, the payoff long term is a plunge worth taking.

Better Knowledge. Better Insurance Decisions. Better Results.

Accepted to College: Your Family Membership May Be Revoked

Time flies so quickly. High School seniors are submitting applications, writing essays and interviewing at college. Before you know it, the acceptance letters start piling up and important decisions have to be made. Together, you select the college and calculate the expenses: tuition, housing, meal plan and personal spending money. But did you forget about personal property insurance?

 

Most people assume that their homeowner’s insurance will cover a college student’s personal property and liability while living in a dorm or other type of college housing. But the key factor for insurance coverage is if the student is a “member of the family.” Now logically, that may sound ridiculous. But in the insurance world, there are five factors that help determine “membership:

 

 

  • Is the student claimed on the tax return?
  • Do the parents pay the college bills?
  • Do the parents provide any additional support?
  • Do the parents provide health insurance for the student?
  • Does the student return to the parents’ home over college break?

 

The more affirmative answers, the greater the chance the child would be covered.

 

Once you have ascertained the student is still a member of the family, here are some additional exclusions to keep in mind. The policy is limited in coverage up to a certain amount, based on the value of the house. If the student has an excessive amount of expensive possessions, you may want to purchase a Tenants Form (HO4). It additional to coverage, if there is a claim, your homeowner’ renewal will not be affected.

Just another piece of advice. This may sound like common sense to grown-ups, but a reminder to our children, just leaving for college will make you feel better. Here are some recommendations to share:

 

  • Take an inventory and pictures of all expensive items in your dorm room or apartment.
  • Never leave your door unlocked. Should you leave your door open while showering and return to find your room empty, the insurance company may not consider it a burglary but rather a “mysterious disappearance” in which case you may not be covered.
  • Consider storing personal possessions or bringing them home if you are going to be away from school for more than 45 days. There is often a theft exclusion when you are away from campus for a lengthy period of time.

 

 

Better Buyers, Make Better Decisions, and Achieve Better Results.

When Lightning Strikes, Can You Run for Cover?

 

Conventional wisdom dictates, “When thunder roars, go indoors. And when you see lighting hover, run for cover.”

 

 

If you are close enough to hear thunder, you are in danger of being struck by lightning. We can protect ourselves by running for cover, but what is the best way to safeguard our home?

 

 

 

  • Have a lightning protection system installed for your home and/or business. Power surge protectors are an inexpensive way to safeguard your appliances and electrical equipment. An experienced sales person can determine the amount of joules within the power surge protector you need for complete protection. You can also check with your insurance agent to see if the installation will entitle you to a property insurance discount.
  • Check with your local public power company for recommended power surge protection devices to lessen your loss.
  • Include protection for electrical, telephone, cable or satellite TV lines entering your house or business.
  •  Make sure all equipment is UL-listed and properly labeled.

 

Lightning protection systems are designed to protect a structure and provide a specified path to harness and safely ground the super-charged current of the lightning bolt. The system does not attract or repel a strike, but routes it harmlessly into the earth, away from your house or place of business. A lightning protection system increases your chances of home protection and minimizes the possibility of a claim and a subsequent increase in your insurance premium.

 

Damage caused by lightning, such as fire, is covered by standard homeowner’s and business insurance policies. Some home and business policies provide coverage for power surges that are the direct result of a lightning strike. The optional comprehensive portion of an auto insurance policy also provides coverage for lightning damage.

 

So when lightning strikes, you know you are covered. Is there a price for peace of mind?

 

Better Knowledge.  Better Insurance Decisions. Better Results!

How Insurers treat lighting damage.

CEO and President Leigh Needelman shared his knowledge on how insurers treat lighting damage in this ValuePenguin article.

 

“Leigh Needelman, CEO and president of Florida Assurers, Inc., says lightning is typically defined for insurance purposes as ‘naturally generated electricity from the atmosphere’ and is generally classified in three ways…”

 

http://www.valuepenguin.com/homeowners-insurance-and-lightning-strikes#sufficient-lightning-coverage

Four Questions You Should Ask before Buying Homeowner’s Insurance: Not All Homeowner Insurance Policies are Created Equal

Purchasing homeowner’s insurance for a single family homeowner is not the cookie cutter, one size fits all that many of us envision. The coverage and cost needs to take into account not only the physical structure but its history, contents, your personal spending habits and property amenities.

That is why it is important to have an actual conversation with your insurance agent. And preferably, the conversation should be in the home you are looking to insure. Taking the agent on a tour of your property provides an important opportunity for both you and the agent to ask important questions.

While visiting your home, an agent can see if you have a pool with or without a fence, trampoline, swimming pool slide or even a skate board ramp that liability coverage could be excluded under the homeowner’s policy. The agent will also see if you have pets, especially vicious breeds, and suggest that you add animal liability under a separate policy.

But what questions should you be asking? Here are my top four suggestions:

1)                  What does a homeowner’s policy cover and what does it not cover?

The fine print is key in purchasing a homeowner’s policy. By taking an inventory of your possessions including big ticket items such as jewelry, fine arts, paintings and precious metals, you can discuss with your agent whether or not the homeowner’s company will add a jewelry floater on the policy by endorsement or whether you need to purchase a separate inland marine policy for those high valued items. By doing your own home inventory and discussing your replacement values of your more expensive possessions, you and your agent have a better idea if you need to purchase a separate floater in addition to the homeowner’s policy.

2)                  Will my policy cover the cost of rebuilding my home or my purchase price?

When you buy homeowner’s insurance as a new homeowner, you want protection equal to the full current insurable replacement cost value of the home structure, not the home purchase price. The cost of rebuilding after a hurricane, fire or tornado is different than the purchase price. By asking this question, you will be ensuring that you have sufficient coverage to rebuild your house after a natural disaster.

 

3)                  How does the past insurance claim history of my home affect the purchase of this new policy?

Knowing the past claims history is an important factor in determining future coverage for a new home buyer. If the property has sustained past sewage problems, you may decide to purchase water backup coverage. If you are not the original proprietor, you can obtain a copy of the Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (also known as CLUE) which is an amalgamation of all insurance claims submitted for the property. Knowledge is power.

4)                  Are there discounts available?

 

Your insurance agent is not a mind reader. Asking directly about discounts is one way to explore the possibility of saving on your insurance. Installation of security systems including burglar and fire alarms, hurricane impact resistive glass windows and doors as well as reviewing the age and type of roof may lower your premium and give you added protection as well as peace of mind.

Better Knowledge.  Better Insurance Decisions.  Better Results!

Are Independent Insurance Agents Irrelevant?

With today’s technology, products can be compared, priced and purchased which the click of a mouse. Even a prospective spouse can be obtained through an online dating service. It’s truly amazing what we as consumers can do on the internet. Andrea Wells, Editor and Chief of the Insurance Journal stated, “If 40 million people can choose to find love online, maybe they should buy insurance the same way.” Then she adds an interesting observation, “While about half of auto insurance customers shop online, less than half end up actually buying online.”

 

Despite the proliferation and accessibility of online insurance companies, it appears consumers still prefer a brick and mortar agency as opposed to the virtual experience. The primary reason is we still value human relationships and tend to trust those with whom we have had personal contact. Additionally, buying insurance is a complicated process with numerous variables and major risk exposure. And consumers need to be reassured that the insurance policies they are purchasing meet their needs.

 

Buying insurance from an online service or telemarketing agency, which sells one type of cookie-cutter insurance product, can be risky. Answering 10 questions online for an instant insurance quote does not allow for sufficient data, ultimately leading to possible inadequate coverage. To purchase insurance, a conversation is required. A professional independent insurance agent can explore consumer needs in depth, analyze and assess a consumer’s risk tolerance, and provide the information necessary to select the portfolio that addresses both personal, commercial and emotional factors. Generally, a telemarketer is trained to address only one type of insurance product, such as homeowner’s or auto only. This limited type of sales approach can leave a consumer vulnerable and unprotected by not suggesting adjunct forms of insurance such as flood, windstorm, sinkhole, fine arts, jewelry riders or even ones boat or golf cart. It takes a discussion to understand one’s individual needs.

 

At the risk of sounding old fashioned, while the Amazon approach for selling books has basically eradicated our need for brick and mortar bookstores, the online insurance solutions currently available are not in the consumer’s best interest. While the price may be right and the process may seem time-efficient, the ultimate product purchased may be lacking and leave the consumer at risk. And unlike Amazon, with its quick and easy return policy, once you buy insurance, there is no opportunity for a full refund.

 

Florida Assurers Inc., with more than 50 years in the same location, has maintained its success as an independent insurance agency by adhering to its core principle, “The Client-agent relationship leads to a better educated consumer. An educated consumer makes better insurance purchase decisions and ultimately achieves better results.”

 

And everyone lives happily ever after.

 

Leigh B. Needelman, CEO & President
Florida Assurers, Inc.

Flood Insurance for Hurricane Season: Are You Covered?

Good news South Florida.  According to the 2015 Hurricane Seasonal Outlook, we are about to experience a considerably below-average season this year, with 7 named storms, 3 hurricanes with the possibility of only one major storm.

 


The word ONLY can be deceiving. It takes only one hurricane to make landfall to make it an active season. Since the best offensive is a good defensive, here are some of our best flood insurance recommendations:


 

 

    • Make sure you have flood insurance. Most homeowner’s policy cover wind damage from storms but specifically exclude flood damage, which can be purchased through the government’s National Flood Insurance program or a private insurers.



    • Having coverage is a good start but you need the right amount. You want to make sure your house is valued sufficiently so that if there is a complete loss, you can rebuild. Update your policy as home values can rise.



    • Be careful not to confuse insuring your loan value with insuring your home value.

 

Those who insure their home value for only the loan value will ultimately bear the loss of their equity within the home value.


 

    • There is a 30-day waiting period for new flood insurance to go into effect with the exception of a new loan closing with a bank. So reviewing your policy (particularly the deductible and exclusions) early in the season is essential.



    • As part of the review process, make sure there is coverage for your contents / possessions too. Take the time to do inventory, by making a list and taking photos/video of all rooms and contents. Keep the inventory record online as well as in print to ensure you have access.

 

Better Buyers, Make Better Decisions, and Achieve Better Results.  

Can An Annual Insurance Checkup Lead to Better Rates?

Much like your annual physical at your primary physician, reviewing your insurance policies annually is an important process. It is a quick and easy way to ensure your policies are in good standing with the company and reassure you that your insured values are correct.


Why is it necessary?

 

Here’s a perfect example: When circumstances change, you could be left underinsured. Let’s say you purchased a jewelry floater for your diamond ring that appraised at $6,000 when you married eight years ago. In a home burglary, the diamond is stolen and the insurance company issues you a check for your original appraisal. You go to replace the ring, only to discover that the replacement cost is $18,000, eight years later. Being underinsured can be a painfully unpleasant surprise. 

 

The reappraisal process is equally applicable to your home insurance and recommended for commercial buildings as well. Commercial policies have a coinsurance clause that basically requires the insured to carry a percentage of the full insurable replacement value of the building at the time of loss. If not, the insured is penalized by not receiving the full amount of the loss paid by the insurance carrier.  

 

Property values change based on a number of factors including constructions costs, materials and labor costs as well as area crime rates. Having an appraisal at least every three years helps keep your values up-to-date. Reviewing your policies is a valuable tool to assess the extent of your coverage and reassure you that your policy values are in sync with market construction costs.

 

Life is full of surprises. An underinsured home, business or piece of jewelry is easily avoidable. Just contact your insurance agent. And while you are on the phone, ask about better rates.

 

The results could be surprisingly good.

U.S. News and World Report Article: Is It Time to Give Your Insurance Policies a Checkup?

Our President and CEO Leigh Needelman gave an example of why it is important to review your insurance policies in this U.S. News and World Report article, Is It Time to Give Your Insurance Policies a Checkup?”

http://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/articles/2015/04/03/is-it-time-to-give-your-insurance-policies-a-checkup