Posts Tagged insurance

Preventing basement water damage

Water Damaged Basement

It’s been said, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you ever had to deal with the clean up and reconstruction from water damage you’ll appreciate that advice. A wet basement may or may not be covered by your homeowners insurance.

Are wet basements covered by home insurance?

It depends on the source of the water and the optional coverage you purchased on your policy:

  1. If water seeps through your basement walls, floors or windows, that is considered a flood. Floods are excluded (not covered) on homeowners insurance.
  2. If water backs up from a drainage system, such as a floor drain, sewer line or a sump pit, the damage COULD be covered but only if you have optional water and sewer backup coverage added to your policy. Due to the frequency of these claims, the cost of this coverage continues to increase.
  3. Damage from plumbing leaks, burst pipes and water overflowing from sinks and tubs is generally covered on your base home policy. It is all subject, of course, to the terms and conditions of your policy.

Even if insurance does cover the cost of the damage, you will still have to pay your deductible (usually $1,000 or more) and deal with the disruption, mess and paperwork of getting everything put back as it was before. In most cases you will also face increased home insurance premiums for the next three years. Therefore, prevention is a much better way to go!

Early detection is key to prevention

Fortunately, most water damage losses are avoidable. Here are some tips to help protect your home better.

  1. Consider replacing your sump pump regularly. I have customers who replace their sump pump every 7-10 years to avoid having it fail at an inopportune time. Sump pumps are relatively inexpensive, some are less than $100.
  2. Have a backup power source. A major reason for many sump pit overflows is a loss of power, especially during a storm. Battery backups are the most common. There are also sump pumps that can run off your water pressure for backup power. Emergency generators are another option.
  3. Water detectors. These are inexpensive and effective at giving you an early warning for trouble.
    1. For around $11 you can get a simple device that works like a smoke alarm, setting off an audible alarm when water is detected under it.
    2. Internet connected water detectors send an alert to your smart phone when it detects water. The advantage of this system is it can alert you even when you are away from home.

Water detectors should be placed in potential problem areas such as near your sump pit or floor drain to give you early warning. You can buy multiple units around your home, wherever water leaks can appear like under sinks, dishwasher or waterline to your fridge.

Insure your home for the big disasters but be proactive to prevent them in the first place. That’s the best emergency plan! Insurance Gurus represents several top-rated insurance companies. Ask for a free review of your homeowner insurance today.

Internet connected water detector. Just $49 at Menards.

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10 Ways to Save on Car Insurance

How to save on your car insurance

Is your teen driver driving you to the poor house? Did your insurance rates take a huge increase with no change in your driving record? It may be time to review your auto policy to make sure you’re not over-paying. Here are 10 tips to keep your auto premiums in tip-top shape.

  1. Check your driving record.

Your driving record can have a big influence on how much you pay for car insurance. When your insurance is quoted, they run two reports: 1) Clue Report, this includes claims data turned into insurance companies, and 2) Motor Vehicle Report, this comes from the DOT and includes information reported by police like violations and accidents. Clue Reports can be inaccurate so should know the correct driving records of every driver on your policy and record the date and type of incident, including:

  1. Traffic violations
  2. Accidents (both at-fault and not-at-fault accidents such as someone rear-ending you)
  3. Comprehensive claims (like deer strikes, hail, glass damage, vandalism, etc.)

Ask your agent (and anytime you quote new insurance) what incidents affected your rate. You can dispute inaccurate information, but you may need to show proof to get items removed.

  1. Maintain a good driving record

Obviously, if you obey traffic laws and drive safely, you’ll get into fewer accidents and violations. Make safe driving a habit. Consider taking a safe driving course, some companies offer discounts for doing so, but even if they don’t, it has its own rewards.

  1. Participate in telematics programs

Telematics are devices that monitor your driving habits, such as mileage, time of day, fast braking, speed, mobile distraction and others. Insurance companies offer discounts of 5% to as much 50% depending on your driving habits. Find out of the insurance company will raise your rates if your driving habits are unfavorable, some do not. Driving apps that you install on your mobile phone are gaining popularity among carriers as some offer both choices. Since you can monitor your own driving with these devices it is an opportunity to improve your driving habits.

  1. Check insurance before buying your vehicle

Not all vehicles are created equal when it comes to the cost to insure them. Obviously a more expensive car will cost more to insure, but other factors play into it as well. Luxury and less common makes are often more expensive to repair and get parts if they are in an accident. Sportier cars or vehicles that can be used off-road cost more too. Get the VIN of the cars you’re considering and have your agent quote them first.

  1. Maintain good credit

Credit score can have as big of a factor on your rates as your driving record. Pay your bills on time, keep credit card balances low and dispute any discrepancies on your credit report.

  1. Shop your insurance

This is perhaps the biggest key to lower rates and yet many people are reluctant to do it. Perhaps it intimidates people who think they may unwittingly end up with less or inferior overage. Always insist on getting an apples-to-apples quote with your current coverage so you can compare fairly. While many insurance agents sell only one carrier, you can get quotes from multiple carriers from independent agents and brokers. Search for independent agents on Google and ask what carriers they are appointed with. That way you can get competitive quotes from more companies.

  1. Don’t assume advertised insurance companies are any better/cheaper than non-advertised ones.

Advertising is very costly and adds to an insurance company’s overhead. While brand recognition may help instill your confidence, advertising in its self doesn’t make a product any better. Some of the best values in insurance can be with small insurance companies you never heard of before. Also don’t assume a particular brand always has a better rate. All insurance companies have their own rating factors to determine what type of customers get the best rates. The company that was good for your brother-in-law may be a poor choice for you.

  1. Maximize discounts

Some of the biggest discounts include multi-vehicle and multi-policy discounts. Therefore, bundling home and auto insurance with the same company is usually cheaper. Paying your policy in full gives you an additional discount vs. monthly pay. Ask what discounts you are getting now and what other discounts are available, but not currently getting.

  1. Consider increasing your deductibles or reducing coverage on older cars

The lower the deductible, the higher the premium so you will save money by raising your deductibles. If the car is financed be sure to check with your loan company to see if they require a maximum deductible limit. If you have an older car or is worth less than $5K and is paid off, consider dropping comprehensive and collision coverage. A rule of thumb is if your comp and collision coverage costs more than 10x the value of the car, consider reducing coverage.

  1. Go easy on optional coverage

You’ve seen the commercials that advertise “accident forgiveness” or “disappearing deductibles.” What they don’t mention is those options often cost you more and they aren’t necessarily right for you. Watch the cost of rental reimbursement, GAP coverage and roadside assistance to make sure you feel the benefit is worth the extra premium.

Getting your best rates requires some diligence on your part and combined with a little knowledge you’ll get the most for your money. Take control of your insurance today!

 

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Nation’s Lowest Auto Insurance Rates

Auto insurance rates

States with the Lowest Auto Insurance premiums

Do you feel like your auto insurance rates have gotten out of hand? Be thankful if you don’t live in Michigan, Oklahoma or Louisiana. Residents there pay more than $2,000/per year on average to insure each vehicle. Iowans may also complain about raising rates, but should take some comfort in knowing they pay the lowest auto insurance rates in the nation! According to the November 2017 newsletter for Independent Insurance agents of Iowa, Iowans pay on average $1,125/year for auto insurance. Premiums vary by zip code and are based on the loss (claims) experience of insurance companies in each zip code. Therefore rates can vary widely even within a state. For example people in Detroit zip codes will pay a lot more than those in Marquette, MI.

Iowa’s lack of large urban areas helps reduce traffic congestion and accidents. However lower crime rates (theft and vandalism) as well as relatively fewer weather-related losses also work in the state’s favor. On the other hand, Iowa was the fourth highest state for deer-vehicle collisions last year according to State Farm. Of course the car you drive, driving records, credit history and age and experience of the driver(s) are important insurance rating factors too.

Uninsured Motorists

Iowa also is the 12th best state for the lowest percentage of uninsured drivers at just 8.7%*. This is despite the fact that Iowa doesn’t have a compulsory insurance law. Iowa’s Financial and Safety Responsibility act requires that drivers have the financial means to cover injury or property damage to others. Financial responsibility can be satisfied either from one’s personal wealth or with auto liability insurance.

The top 10 states with the lowest average auto insurance premiums are ranked below, with Iowa being the lowest:

  1. Iowa
  2. North Carolina
  3. Ohio
  4. New Hampshire
  5. Maine
  6. Idaho
  7. Wisconsin
  8. Kansas
  9. North Dakota
  10. Arizona

* Percentage of uninsured drivers, as measured by the ratio of uninsured motorists claims to bodily injury claim frequencies. Source: Insurance Research Council, 2015.

Get a quote from a Cedar Rapids auto insurance agency.

 

Posted in: Industry News, Iowa News

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Prevention is Best Cure for Water Back-up Claims

Prevention is Best Cure for Water Back-up Claims

It’s been raining for days and then you step down to your basement and “squish!” You have water problems. Just how big of a problem it is depends on how long and how much is wet. Your base homeowners insurance policy usually won’t cover the damage caused by water or sewage backing up or overflow from your sump pit. You need to add the optional sewer and water backup coverage to your policy. Water back-up coverage may also be added to your renters insurance policy to protect your personal property. Unfortunately, that coverage isn’t as cheap as it once was. Water back-up insurance can cost upwards of $200/year for a $10K coverage limit. Loss occurrences have become increasingly common in Iowa and other states with higher rainfall amounts, premiums have risen dramatically. The average water backup claim is $7,500 which may include cleanup costs as well as damage to your dwelling (flooring, base trim, drywall) and personal property.

Back up your Sump Pump

There are steps you can take to help prevent the likelihood of water back-up in the first place or at least lessen the impact of the damage if it does happen. The most common cause of water back-up claims is a malfunction with the sump pump. The storms that bring the extra water can also knock out the power to your home including the sump pump. Getting a sump pump with a battery back-up will allow your pump to do its job even when the power is out. Water powered sump pumps uses the water pressure from your home rather than electricity to pump water from your sump pit.

Another cause of sewer and water backup claims are floor drains that back up when city sewers are overwhelmed, causing it to flow backwards into your home. A properly installed back-flow valve or check valve can help prevent sewage backing into your home.

Early Warning System

water detector

A battery operated water detector (about $10) can provide early warning of water problems.

Let’s say you took all these precautions and you still get water backing into your basement. A water detector placed on your basement floor sets off an audible alarm, like a smoke alarm, to alert you of trouble before it gets serious. The early warning can tell you there’s a problem with your sump pump so you can take care of it before your property is damaged. These cost only about $10 so you can buy extra ones to use around your home where water leaks can form, such as behind your refrigerator (with automatic ice-makers), under your sinks and under your dishwasher. They also make water detectors that are connected to your home’s Wi-Fi and will send a text alert to your mobile device anywhere you may be.

Act Quickly to Prevent Mold

One of the biggest cost for water back-up is the mold remediation which can start forming in just 24-48 hours after exposure to water. Therefore, you need to act quickly if your carpet does get wet. Some useful equipment to help remove the water and start drying things down are:

  1.  A wet vac and/or carpet cleaning machine
  2. Carpet blowers or high-speed fans
  3. Dehumidifier(s)

You will first remove as much water possible with the wet vac and carpet cleaner then place the blowers/fans in line to move the air in the same direction around the room. The dehumidifiers will pull the moisture out of the air. If the water collects in a corner of the room you might want to pull back the carpet and pad in that area to facilitate drying. Check for mold on the back of the carpet and pad.

Water Backup Coverage isn’t Flood Insurance

Not all wet basements are due to water back-up. Which type of coverage applies depends on where the water entered your home. If it seeps through walls or enters through windows, that would be considered a flood and only flood insurance would cover it. Even so, flood insurance provides only limited coverage in basements. For example, personal property and floor coverings that are below grade are not covered. While water from a frozen or leaking pipe as well as water that overflows from a sink or tub may be covered in your base homeowners policy.

If you’ve had water damage in the past, you are more susceptible for having damage again. And of course, a water backup claim can lead to 3-year surcharge and loss of claim-free discounts, not to mention putting you at risk for cancellation if there are multiple claims. The best policy is to take the steps necessary to protect your property in the first place and mitigate damage by taking action quickly.

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Difference between Condominum Insurance and Homeowners Insurance

Difference between Condominum Insurance and Homeowners Insurance

Condo Insurance vs. Homeowners Insurance

The major difference between owning a condo vs. a single-family home is condominium owners own and maintain the inside of their units themselves while jointly owning and maintaining the exterior of the building and common areas of the property. The common property is governed by a condominium association or a homeowner’s association (HOA). Each homeowner is a member and the members elect the officers.

The HOA is responsible for maintaining the landscaping, walks, parking lots, building exteriors and any jointly held property like a clubhouse or pool.  Monthly dues are collected from the members to pay for ongoing and future expenses such as insurance and re-roofing as needed.

The HOA also maintains a master insurance policy that covers the building’s shell such as the roofing, exterior and common areas. The master policy may also provide liability coverage for the commonly maintained areas of the property such as lawn, sidewalks and clubhouse. The master policy can be in two typical forms:

  1. Completely rebuild the building including all interior units to their original state (not counting any subsequent improvements made by the homeowner).
  1. “Studs out” policy. This is the more common of the two and covers just the rebuilding of the building’s exterior shell and any common space such as hallways between the units. The condo owner is responsible for rebuilding from the studs inward.

The individual members still need their own insurance to cover their property and liability where the master policy leaves off. In the first scenario, the unit owner may just have coverage for their personal property and personal liability, like a renter’s policy. The policy will also include loss of use (coverage D) which can pay for your additional living expense such as hotel bills if your home is not livable during repairs from a covered loss.

In the second scenario, you will need enough building coverage limit (coverage A) to rebuild the part of the building you are responsible for. This can include interior walls, kitchen and bath fixtures, flooring, window and wall coverings, light fixtures and other improvements to your unit’s interior. Coverage B (other structures) is not usually needed for a condo because detached garages, gazebos, fences, etc. are generally common property covered by the HOA’s policy. Coverage C (personal property) is needed by the condo owner as well as Coverage D, E and F – loss of use, medical payments and liability.

When getting insurance quotes for your condominium be sure your agent gets a copy of the master policy as well as the HOA bylaws to help avoid potential coverage gaps. For “studs-in” coverage, your insurance agent will run a special replacement cost estimate that doesn’t include replacing your building’s shell. It will use your unit’s square footage, type of construction, grade of kitchen, number of baths and other interior features to get a more accurate estimate. This estimate will be used for your building coverage limit. Your personal property limit is based on an estimate to replace your property that is not permanently attached to the dwelling.

Condominium insurance quotes in Cedar Rapids

Condominium living can provide many of the rewards of home ownership such as building equity but with fewer maintenance responsibilities. Whether it’s your first home or your retirement home be sure to get the right insurance coverage for worry-free living!

Condo photo

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Where are the best Auto Insurance rates in Cedar Rapids?

Where are the best Auto Insurance rates in Cedar Rapids?

Everyone knows that car insurance rates can vary by driver and vehicle as well as risk factors like driving record, vehicle use and mileage. But did you know that you can pay different rates depending on what part of Cedar Rapids you live?

Recently, a customer moved from one Cedar Rapids zip code to another. With no other changes, their auto insurance rate increased by $100 over the 6-month term. I thought it was unusual for such a large difference within Cedar Rapids and was curious how much your zip code affects your auto insurance rates. Using the same customer, I checked rates in each zip code in the metro area and here are the results:
 

auto-rates-by-zip

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 Note: an index of 1.02 means this zip code is 2% more than the 52402 zip. This example was checked on Progressive. Each carrier sets their rating factors with approval from the Iowa Insurance Division who regulates insurance rates in the state of Iowa. Therefore, it’s important to note other carriers will not have the same rate differentials for the same zip codes.

In this example, the driver would pay $231 more in the SE Cedar Rapids zip code versus the NE zip code. I would’ve expected a large rate differential when moving to another state, as Iowa on average has some of the lowest auto insurance rates in the nation.

Why do auto insurance rates vary by location?

Insurers keep claims data by zip code. Those areas with higher rates of losses (insurance claims) will pay more than those with lower rates of loss. A higher number of accidents can lead to increased liability and collision coverage rates. Similarly, more losses from storms, deer strikes, vandalism or theft can lead to paying higher premiums for comprehensive coverage. For example Oklahoma has more severe wind and hail storms than Iowa does. Therefore you’ll pay more there for comprehensive coverage, which covers such loses, than in Iowa due to the increased risk.

It surprised me how much just moving across town, or in some cases just across the street, can affect your auto premiums!

 

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Why chose an independent insurance agent?

Why chose an independent insurance agent?

When buying insurance for your car and home, there are three basic sources:

  1. Direct to Consumer
  2. Exclusive/captive Agents
  3. Independent Agents

Direct to Consumer

Insurance companies that sell directly to consumers include: Geico, Esurance, Progressive Direct, The General and others. These companies sell online and via call centers and offer the convenience of extended hours and online access. When buying this way you are probably making a lot of decisions on your own. For example, are state minimum liability limits adequate for you?  What coverage types should you have? Who pays when those limits are exceeded? If you’re making decisions based on paying the lowest price possible, you could be left under-insured or not covered at all. Instead of paying a little more on your premium, you risk paying the rest of your life for one mistake.

Many who buy insurance on their own believe it will save them money because they’re not using a agent. While it’s true that some people can get a cheaper rate like everything else, no one company has the best rates for everyone. Direct carriers may not pay an agent commission (typically 10-15%), however they do have other significant expenses. They pay people to staff their call centers, the website programmers and other overhead. Since there are no insurance agents bringing them customers, direct insurance carriers must pay more to advertise their services to you. Geico for example spent more than $1 billion in advertising in 2013, more than 6% of their premium revenue, according to data collected by SNL Financial. Since online carriers don’t assign you to a specific agent, you’ll talk to a different person every time you call rather than getting personal service from a licensed agent that knows you.

Exclusive/captive Agents

Exclusive or captive agents work for one particular carrier who sets the agenda for their agents as to what products they can sell. These companies such as State Farm, American Family or Allstate are often only sold through their own agents who are contracted or employed by the company. Therefore they generally have less options to offer their customers. If you want to check other carriers for a better rate or get coverage they don’t offer, you will need to find another agent. You may have noticed that many of the big exclusive carriers spend a lot of money on advertising to convince you that their insurance is worth more money.

Independent Agents

Independent are also local agents. However since they are independent from the companies they sell, they are able to offer multiple carriers. More carriers give independent agents access to different types of insurance coverage. This makes it more possible to find all your insurance needs at one local agency.

 

Benefits of an independent insurance agent

 

Since independent agents are not employed by the companies they represent, they are able to offer clients more carriers. Multiple carriers gives the independent agent more options to better fit your needs. For example one carrier may be a better fit for families with young drivers, one might have the best rates for empty-nesters and another may be better for drivers with multiple violations or accidents. And since these carriers have to compete for the independent agent’s business, they know they need to offer more competitive rates. Independent insurance agents are true business owners. Independent agencies are often locally owned and operated by people you have known for many years. Insurance Gurus will quote your auto and home insurance with Progressive, Le Mars, Safeco, AAA, Integrity, State Auto, MetLife, Dairyland, Foremost and others.

Cedar Rapids Insurance Agent – Ed Faber

You have many choices when it comes to finding good insurance coverage. For many people, their insurance decision comes down to trusted relationships. Yes, price is an important factor but when you need to use your insurance, what matters most to you? Is it the (well advertised) insurance company or is it your relationship with your local agent? An independent agent can offer the best of all worlds: personal service, professional advice and a competitive rate. Ed Faber is an independent insurance agent servicing clients in Cedar Rapids and the state of Iowa.

 

 

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