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Insurance Tips

4 Important Tips for Winterizing Your Boat

When you take care of the small details in life, you can avoid a lot of big problems. This applies to nearly everything, but especially when it comes to expensive assets like homes, cars, and yes, boats.

Attention to some basic maintenance before the cold sets in can extend the life of your boat and help prevent major inconveniences and expensive repairs.

Here are some important tips to consider when putting your vessel up for the season:

1) Clean it

Use a little elbow grease and get your craft as close to showroom condition as you can. Remove any stains and dirt, apply a nice wax job and make sure the bilges are clean and dry. This will only increase your pride and satisfaction when it’s time to hit the water next year.

2) Inspect it

Now’s the time to check for damage to the propeller, electrical wiring and connections, and for any loose or broken fasteners. It’s not fun finding problems when you’re excited and ready for the start of boating season after a long winter.

3) Maintain it

Like any engine, your boat’s power plant needs your attention to keep giving you top performance. It’s best to follow the manufacturer’s maintenance recommendations, but the process will likely include:

  • changing the crankcase, gear case oils and filters
  • replacing spark plugs
  • lubricating engine fittings and the propeller shaft
  • circulating antifreeze through the engine block and manifolds
  • topping off fuel tanks with stabilized fuel
  • removing hoses from water pumps
  • connecting the batteries to a trickle charger and storing in a cool dry place

4) Protect it

This is not the place to skimp. A high quality, breathable cover is one of the best investments you can make for your boat’s longevity. A custom cover that prevents UV rays from breaking down the exterior surface will pay for itself over the life of your vessel. Just make sure there’s enough room for airflow. Throw a tarp over everything to extend the life of your cover and for extra protection from the elements.

The time and effort you spend now will go a long way towards protecting your valuable recreational asset and maximizing your fun on the water for years to come.

The information contained in this page is provided for general informational purposes only. The information is provided by Farmers and while we endeavor to keep the information up to date and correct, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability or availability with respect to this article or the information, products, services or related graphics, if any, contained in this article for any purpose. The information is not meant as professional or expert advice, and any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk.

Are You Prepared for El Nino?

Does the thought of the winter season make you smile? Are you looking forward to the cool weather, warm clothing and getting together with your family for the holidays?

Unfortunately, Mother Nature has some plans of her own this winter that include El Nino. From coast to coast, El Nino storms are forecasted to bring record amounts of rain and snow to many parts of the country.

Despite the risk of extreme weather, of course you still want to be able to enjoy your holidays. That’s why it’s important to be prepared. Although you may not be able to predict or control severe weather, you can plan for it.

What can you do to help protect yourself, your family and your home from weather damage? Here are some tips that may help you avoid the hazards of the season:

1) Get Flood insurance.

Start by looking into getting Flood insurance, if you don’t already have it. Your standard home insurance may not cover flood damage or replace stuff destroyed in a flood.

2) Look into optional Wind and Hail coverage.

If you’re a Farmers customer, talk to your agent about special optional coverage such as Wind or Hail that can give you additional protection for trees, shrubs, plants and lawns against high winds and hail.

3) Clean your drains, gutters and downspouts.

Check existing drains and make sure they’re clean and will work when you need them. A backed up drain that floods your home may not be covered by your insurance policy.

Clean your gutters and downspouts; ensure that they’re working and will divert water away from your home. If you’re not able to do so yourself, work with a trusted roofer or contractor to get them cleaned out.

4) Inspect your roof.

Evaluate your roof; if you hire a roofer to clean your gutters, you may also be able to have them inspect your roof for trouble areas. Many insurance policies may not cover you for water damage due to a worn out roof. Get this checked out beforehand to eliminate any unwelcome surprises!

5) Trim your trees and bushes.

Prune trees and bushes around your house; if there are long branches hanging near your roof, or your gutters, trim them before heavy storms come. Broken branches from storms can cause all kinds of damage to your home. A few hours with the pruner now could save you thousands of dollars later.

6) Store valuables off the ground.

If water does get in, your best bet is to minimize the damage and protect your valuables. Keep expensive and irreplaceable items like old family photos, art work, electronics and your stamp collection off the ground. Place them on the top floor of your house or on shelves and tables.

7) Gather basic essentials.

Remember to stock up on the essentials; you know what happens when the news calls for bad weather; stores flood with people, all buying milk, bread, batteries, flashlights and duct tape by the truck load. How do you avoid this mess? Stock up on basic supplies before winter and stay cozy in your home.

Talk to a Farmers agent about the coverage you want, and any concerns you have going into this winter season.

Products & features may not be available in all states & may vary by state.

3 Energy-Efficient Upgrades

Smart homes are no longer a thing of the future. From thermostats that adjust to your lifestyle to lighting you can control with an app, there’s plenty of nifty technology available right now, to make your home more secure, energy-efficient, and intuitive. With Farmers Smart Home series, you’ll find simple, practical ways to turn your house into a smart home.

Remember when “turn off the lights when you leave,” was the only way to conserve energy at home? Well, houses have come a long way since then.

Nowadays, there are intelligent gadgets and products that let you better control everything from lighting to temperature and electricity, which in turn can minimize energy use and save you money in the long run.

With energy costs soaring, there’s really no better time to look into solutions that could shave a few dollars off your utility bills.

Consider these suggestions to turn your house into a smart, sustainable home:

1) Smart Thermostat

Thinking about replacing your old thermostat? Tired of wasting energy heating or cooling the house while you’re not home? Smart thermostats may be the game changer you’re looking for.

These futuristic devices learn your habits and self-adjust your home’s temperature based on your comings and goings. (For instance, smart thermostats detect when you’re away and automatically shut off the air conditioning, so there’s no waste.)

You can even monitor and control your heating and cooling with your smartphone, no matter where you are, letting you maximize your energy efficiency.

For the time being, this new technology comes with a hefty price tag, so it’s up to you to decide if it’s worth the long-term savings. If you’re not ready for a next-generation thermostat just yet, consider installing a programmable one. According to the EPA, upgrading to a programmable thermostat may help you trim up to $180 every year off your bills.

2) Skylights

Beyond just flooding a gloomy room with natural light, skylights are a green addition because they keep your home lit up, and the light bulbs off. Some smart skylights can also open up (either manually or by remote-control) to let in fresh air, lowering your cooling costs.

“Natural light is the perfect substitution for electrical lighting because it’s free,” says Jack Thomasson, HGTV Smart Home 2015 House Planner. “It’s smart to turn off the lights and use natural lighting when and where possible. Well placed skylights can balance the light in the room in such a way that the room actually feels better.”

3) Blackout Shades or Curtains

Did you know that a small step like adding blackout shades or curtains in your home can lead to substantial energy savings?

Blackout shades or curtains block out solar heat, protect your furniture from the damaging effects of sunlight, and save energy. If you’re a tech-savvy homeowner, there are even motorized shades available that you can control with a smartphone app.

Kicking off a top to bottom remodel to green your home? Considering energy-efficient enhancements? Building a brand new eco-friendly home?

Keep in mind that Farmers offers homeowners insurance discounts for adding energy-efficient features to your home. Speak to your Farmers agent to see if you qualify and learn more.

The information contained in this page is provided for general informational purposes only. The information is provided by Farmers and while we endeavor to keep the information up to date and correct, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability or availability with respect to this article or the information, products, services or related graphics, if any, contained in this article for any purpose. The information is not meant as professional or expert advice, and any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk.

Hidden Pet Poisons in Your Home

From leftover candy to table scraps, dogs and cats have a propensity to eat anything around the house that isn’t boxed up or tied down. Yet, even the most cautious pet owners admit – it’s not easy keeping our roving furry friends from devouring harmful foods.

However, what may be most dangerous to your dogs and cats isn’t just “human food” off the table. Seemingly innocuous household items like houseplants and everyday medications can be poisonous and even deadly for your pet!

Here are four household items which can pose a toxic risk to your pets:

1) Ibuprofen

Did you know that one of the prime culprits for pet poisoning is hiding in your medicine cabinet? While common medicines like Advil, Motrin or Midol (which contain Ibuprofen) can alleviate your pain or fever symptoms, those pills can have disastrous effects on dogs and cats.

Ibuprofen inhibits the blood flow to the kidneys and attacks the stomach lining in pets. Cats are even more sensitive to ibuprofen poisoning as compared to dogs – a single 200 mg tablet of ibuprofen could be fatal!

Dogs are at a high risk as well, and can suffer from stomach ulcers or kidney failure depending on the level of dosage.

Protect your pets by keeping your medicines tucked away and out of reach of those prying paws. Don’t be careless either! Pets are quick to swallow accidentally dropped pills. And remember, never give your medicines to your pets. You’d be surprised at how many pet owners unintentionally poison their pets trying to relieve their symptoms with an Ibuprofen.

2) Cocoa Mulch

Cocoa mulch, derived from cocoa shells, is becoming popular for landscaping because it smells…well, chocolate-y. Unfortunately, it’s likely that your dog or cat can’t resist that scent either, and might munch on the mulch while playing in the yard. Cocoa mulch contains the same offenders, caffeine and theobromine, which makes chocolate highly toxic for dogs and can lead to various symptoms such as vomiting, hyperactivity, diarrhea, muscle tremors, and seizures. If you plan to use cocoa mulch in the garden, it’s a good idea to keep your dog out of harm’s way.

3) Azaleas

You might have heard that lilies are a no-no in the garden if you own a dog or cat, as many varieties can be fatal if consumed. But lilies aren’t the only plants to steer clear of. The beautiful Azalea bushes you’ve spotted growing in your neighborhood contain grayanotoxin, which is poisonous even in tiny quantities. All parts of the plant are highly toxic to your furry pals, so you should prevent them from even nibbling on the leaves.

4) Antifreeze

Antifreeze, used to get your car’s radiator primed for winter driving, can turn into a silent killer for your pets if not handled with care. In the winter months, be sure to store antifreeze in a pet-proof container, and clean up any leaks or drips on garage floors and driveways. Antifreeze has a deceptively sweet taste and smell which can tempt your dogs and cats to lap up the liquid. However, it also contains ethylene glycol, a tablespoon of which can be lethal for your pets. Telltale signs of antifreeze poisoning are similar to alcohol poisoning, and your pets may exhibit symptoms such as delirium, uncoordinated movement, excessive urination, or vomiting within hours of ingesting the fluid. If left untreated, acute kidney failure can also occur.

It’s not always easy to detect poisoning in your pets, but if you suspect that your pet has accidentally eaten any of these household substances, contact a veterinarian immediately. The first few hours are usually the most critical, and symptoms can worsen if left untreated. Consider a Pet Insurance plan so that you are covered if you have to make an emergency trip to the vet.

The information contained in this page is provided for general informational purposes only. The information is provided by Farmers and while we endeavor to keep the information up to date and correct, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability or availability with respect to this article or the information, products, services or related graphics, if any, contained in this article for any purpose. The information is not meant as professional or expert advice, and any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk.

Flood Insurance Misconceptions

Flood insurance is one of those things you might not think about — until you’re knee deep in muddy water in your living room.

At that point, it’s too late. You’re left with moldy furniture, ruined flooring, and probably a big replacement cost.

You’re not alone though. 87% of homeowners don’t have a flood insurance policy.

But why?

Many of us have common misconceptions about flood insurance. So let’s clear some of those up:

Misconception #1: You don’t need flood insurance unless you live in a flood-prone area.

Not true. Your property may be at risk. Heavy rainfall, melting snow, or tropical storms can all cause flooding, and floods happen more often and in more parts of the country than you think.

Granted, some areas (coastal cities or towns that get pummeled by hurricanes) are more vulnerable to floods than others. But just because you haven’t been hit by floods before, doesn’t mean you never will.

It’s a good idea to look into flood insurance no matter where your home is located — whether that means you live in an area with little rainfall, miles away from swelling rivers and lakes, or in a zip code that falls safely outside a flood zone.

In fact, over the last 5 years, all 50 states have experienced floods or flash floods.

Misconception #2: Homeowners insurance covers flood damage.

Not true. When it comes to your typical condo or homeowners insurance policy, all types of water damage are not covered.

While most homeowners insurance policies may cover water damage from a burst pipe, flood damage is not usually covered.

Understanding Flood Risks and Insurance Requirements in Your Area

You may not realize it but even a minor flood can cause serious property damage within a matter of minutes. Actually, floods destroy or damage more homes than any other weather catastrophes in the United States.

Depending on where you live, your flood risk can be high, moderate or low, and your insurance rates and requirements are decided based on your flood zone:

High-Risk Areas

There’s a 1 in 4 chance that a home in a high-risk zone will flood. That’s why homeowners in these areas are typically required to carry flood insurance by their lenders. Usually, they qualify for a Standard Risk Policy.

Moderate-to-Low Risk Areas

The threat of flooding in these areas is not as high.

Even so, flood insurance may be something to consider, because residents in these areas have filed about 25% of all National Flood Insurance Program claims. Usually, homeowners in low-to-moderate risk zones can qualify for a low-cost Preferred Risk policy.

If you’d like to learn more, you can assess your neighborhood’s flood risk by using the FEMA Flood Map Tool. However, your Farmers agent is a great resource to help you:

  • Evaluate your property’s flood risk.
  • Find out which flood insurance policies you’re eligible for.
  • Get covered the way you want, if you’re a condo owner or renter.
  • Make an informed decision on flood insurance and understand what it covers.

The information contained in this page is provided for general informational purposes only. The information is provided by Farmers and while we endeavor to keep the information up to date and correct, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability or availability with respect to this article or the information, products, services or related graphics, if any, contained in this article for any purpose. The information is not meant as professional or expert advice, and any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk.

Tornadoes and Home Insurance

Cover Yourself from the Unstoppable

Most of us have seen the awe-inspiring fury of tornadoes on TV, in the news, or in Hollywood blockbusters. Unless you’ve been through one though, dug through broken property, seen neighbors left with nothing…it’s hard to understand their true devastating power.

Like earthquakes, tornadoes are life changing natural events that are just as catastrophic as they are hard to predict.

The good news is, the more prepared you are, the safer you’ll be, and the sooner you’ll be on the road to recovery after a tornado hits. Here are some smart steps you can take:

1) Create a home inventory list now

When the tornado warnings go off, taking shelter is top priority. On the other hand, taking inventory of your belongings is probably the last thing on anyone’s mind.

That’s why it’s vital to create a home inventory ahead of time. Having a detailed list ready to hand off to a claims adjuster after a natural disaster can make the process so much easier (and is one way to ensure you’ll get adequately reimbursed!).

Creating a home inventory doesn’t have to be complicated. Do a room by room walkthrough, and create an itemized list of what you have. Don’t forget to include copies of receipts, if you have them.

You can even supplement your list with pictures and video recordings to create a catalog of what you have.

Keeping your inventory out of harm’s way is equally important! Back up your photos and videos to the cloud, or keep your records secure in a safety deposit box.

2) Find out if your belongings are fully-covered

At Farmers, we know that losing your meaningful possessions can be heartbreaking.

Unfortunately, while we can’t salvage your priceless family photos, our home insurance plans can help you replace your other possessions in case a tornado hits.

That’s because our home policies cover more than just damage to your home – they also cover the cost of belongings lost or damaged in a storm.

Keep in mind:

  • Your possessions are covered up to a certain amount. For expensive or unique items like electronics, jewelry, or fine art, it’s probably a good idea to talk to your Farmers agent about increasing the limits in your policy.
  • Consider Contents Replacement Cost coverage, which compensates you for a lost or damaged item based on its replacement cost value (With a typical homeowners policy, you would be reimbursed based on your items’ depreciated value.)

3) Be proactive

Once the storm has passed and you’ve checked in with friends and family, there are proactive steps you can take to recover your losses and start the rebuilding process:

  • Contact your insurance agent right away to report any property damage. You can also count on Farmers for best in class disaster recovery. With our advanced Mobile Claims Centers, we’re typically first on the scene after a disaster, ready with claims adjusters, support, and supplies for survivors.
  • Make small, emergency repairs (only if it’s safe to do so!) to prevent further damage – even if your insurance agent hasn’t seen it yet. This could include boarding up windows, putting a tarp on the roof, and salvaging undamaged items.
  • Take photos or video of the damage to provide further documentation to support your claim. If possible, keep damaged items until the claim adjuster has visited your home.
  • Shut off utilities. Turn electricity off if the house has been flooded. Report downed power lines or gas leaks to the utility company.
  • Ask your agent about additional living expenses. You don’t have to pay out of pocket to live somewhere else while your home is being repaired or rebuilt. . Most home insurance includes coverage for additional living expenses, or loss of use, which pays for extra costs to live while your house is uninhabitable. Those expenses can include rent, hotel stays, restaurant meals, storage fees and more.

Let’s face it: there’s no surefire strategy for surviving a twister. Your best option it to plan ahead so you’ll get back on your feet quickly after disaster strikes.

Putting an emergency response plan in place can also make a big difference. In addition, talk to your Farmers agent to make sure you’re financially protected when natural calamities occur.

The information contained in this page is provided for general informational purposes only. The information is provided by Farmers and while we endeavor to keep the information up to date and correct, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability or availability with respect to this article or the information, products, services or related graphics, if any, contained in this article for any purpose. The information is not meant as professional or expert advice, and any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk.

Smarter Home Security

Smart homes are no longer a thing of the future. From thermostats that adjust to your lifestyle to lighting you can control with an app, there’s plenty of nifty technology available right now, to make your home more energy-efficient, secure, and intuitive. With Farmers Smart Home series, you’ll find simple, practical ways to turn your house into a smart home.

If you’re like most homeowners, you make mistakes — like forgetting to lock the door on your way to work, leaving windows open on rainy day, or forgetting to close the garage door before going to bed.

That’s why, like most homeowners, you might have a security system.

Even so, you may still worry about coming home to the unexpected. After all, no security system is fool-proof, and although you do the best you can to protect your home, there’s always a chance you may have to deal with a robbery or a break-in, at some point.

To prevent such scary scenarios, home security technology is becoming more high-tech and more user-friendly. Most modern systems let you monitor and control your home’s safety no matter where you are — at work, running errands, on vacation, or even sleeping upstairs.

Now, it’s even possible to lock that front door you left open, right from your smartphone!

Understanding Modern Smart Home Security

From digital cameras and video recorders to smart locks and motion sensors, there are a mind-boggling number of smart home products available today, to help monitor and protect your home.

What do all these gadgets and solutions have in common? They’re all internet-connected, so you can safely and securely control them from a smartphone, tablet or computer and keep an eye on your home, virtually, round the clock.

Sound complicated? It’s easier than you think. You can choose the extent to which you’d like to automate your home security, and with everything on your favorite device, it’s simpler than it’s ever been to secure your home.

If you’re new to the world of smart security, it could mean something as basic as swapping out your trusty deadbolt for a keyless smart lock.

However, if you’re tech-savvy, and would like to make the switch to a completely automated home security system, sophisticated home security hubs are at your command.

The hub lets you control your security system, thermostat, lights and more—all from one device at home or on mobile devices when you’re on the go. It even alerts you if you’re away and something goes awry (among other capabilities).

Be careful though! When you connect your home to the internet, you open the door to other potential dangers like hackers. Precautions to consider include creating a strong password and making sure your home’s wireless network is secure.

Smart Possibilities in Your Home

Although smart home security devices can’t keep intruders away, they can give you more visibility and control with features like:

  • Smart door locks that are controlled with a smartphone app, and send you notifications when your family members come home.
  • WiFi cameras that let you keep a close watch on every room in your home via a webcam, and can capture and send photos or streaming video to your phone.
  • Smart motion sensors that detect unusual activity and send you real-time alerts.
  • Smart garage door technology that lets you open or close your door with a smartphone app, and alerts you when you leave the door open accidentally.
  • Smart smoke and Carbon Monoxide detectors, and flood detectors that raise an alarm on your phone when there’s a leak.

Keep in mind that Farmers offers all sorts of discounts to homeowners who are smart about protecting their home. Whether it’s a burglar alarm, fire alarm or automatic sprinklers, if you’ve invested in some state of the art protective equipment lately, check with your Farmers agent to see if you can lower your premium.

The information contained in this page is provided for general informational purposes only. The information is provided by Farmers and while we endeavor to keep the information up to date and correct, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability or availability with respect to this article or the information, products, services or related graphics, if any, contained in this article for any purpose. The information is not meant as professional or expert advice, and any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk.

Smart Lighting

Smart homes are no longer a thing of the future. From thermostats that adjust to your lifestyle to lighting you can control with an app, there’s plenty of nifty technology available right now, to make your home more secure, energy-efficient, and intuitive. With Farmers Smart Home series, you’ll find simple, practical ways to turn your house into a smart home.

Lights are one of those things you don’t pay attention to, until one goes kaput. These days, though, a simple trip to the store to replace a broken bulb can leave you overwhelmed.

From lights that change color to suit your mood to ones that automatically turn off when you’re away, the choices are endless. Modern home lighting has gone high tech, and it goes to show just how far we’ve come since the humble incandescent.

What is a Smart Home?

Still in the dark about the “connected home” concept? A connected home lets you manage everything from lighting to temperature and electricity from a central hub or mobile device.

What is Smart Lighting?

If you want to take the plunge into automating your home, smart lighting is probably the easiest way to get started.

Smart lighting is a fancy term for LED lightbulbs that come equipped with a host of intelligent capabilities such as WiFi connectivity or automated settings. Every smart lightbulb or lighting system is different, but most new lighting technology features:

  • Smartphone Controls. Lights can be turned on or off, right from your smartphone, laptop, or tablet. (There’s no need to get off the couch again!)
  • Automated Settings. Lights with timers that allow you set up an automatic schedule, so you don’t need to go room to room, manually flicking on/off light switches.
  • Motion sensors. Lights can detect if a room is occupied or not.
    Adjustable features. Lights with dimmers and color options that let you adjust brightness and hue right from your smartphone.

Granted, switching to smart lighting systems can be pricey upfront. But even if you swap out a few key bulbs in the house, you’ll see significant energy savings in the long run.

Energy Savings

Smart lighting saves energy (and money) right off the bat, because LED light bulbs are more efficient and have a longer life expectancy than your regular light bulb. That combined with dimmers, sensors, and wireless controls can help you slash your energy bill even more.

Too many lights on at once? Are they brighter than they need to be? Is the garage light on for no reason? Automated lighting gives you more control, so you:

  • Only use your lights when you need to
  • Lower the brightness in situations where bright lighting is not required
  • Use less electricity overall, and gradually improve your consumption habits

Smart Lighting Possibilities in Your Home

Once you make the switch to smart lighting, you’ll be surprised to discover how much more you can do with a simple lightbulb, like:

  • Set your lights to fit your personal schedule. Whether that means programming your bedside light to wake you up gradually, having your living room lights dim before bedtime, or scheduling your porch lights to turn off at sunset.
  • Use motion sensor lights to minimize energy waste. Now, lights can intuitively sense if you’re in the room or not, and automatically turn on/off to save energy. They’re ideal for areas like stairways, halls, or your garage, where it’s easy to forget to turn off the lights.
  • Keep intruders away by automating your lights to stay on, so even if you’re on vacation, it looks like someone’s home.
  • Use your smartphone to play with lighting displays like changing the color of your lightbulbs and adjusting the brightness to create a different ambience.
  • Turn your lights on or off from anywhere, with a smartphone app. No more getting annoyed with your family members for leaving the lights on!

Did you know you could qualify for discounts for making energy-efficient upgrades to your home? Talk to your Farmers agent to learn more!

The information contained in this page is provided for general informational purposes only. The information is provided by Farmers and while we endeavor to keep the information up to date and correct, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability or availability with respect to this article or the information, products, services or related graphics, if any, contained in this article for any purpose. The information is not meant as professional or expert advice, and any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk.

Umbrella Insurance

Added Protection for Homeowners

From an accidental kitchen fire to a burglary while you’re on vacation, homeowner’s insurance helps cover your most precious assets against these and other dreaded scenarios.

But did you know that homeowner’s insurance also covers you for personal liability?

You could incur personal liability if you accidentally cause damage to another person. Typically, your homeowner’s policy provides liability limits up to a certain amount, usually ranging from $100,000 to $500,000.*

If a judgment exceeds that amount, though, your personal assets could be at risk. Without extended liability limits, a single lawsuit could easily wipe out your savings, your personal assets, and even put your home at risk.

That’s where an umbrella policy comes in.

Umbrella insurance is exactly what it sounds like – an overarching policy, which pays damages when the liability limits of your homeowner’s or auto policies are exhausted. In certain cases, it even provides “drop down” coverage to protect you from liability not covered by your home or auto policies.

Liability in Your Home and Beyond

It’s common knowledge that we live in a litigious world. Many people fail to realize that they could get sued for a number of things, both on and off-premises, including:

At Home:

  • A guest slips and falls near your pool
  • A child gets injured jumping on your trampoline
  • Your child’s friend gets ill from food you serve at a party

Outside your home:

  • You take your dog for a walk and it bites your neighbor
  • Your teenage driver gets into a serious car crash that injures someone
  • You posted a scathing review online, which might be viewed as libel
  • Your rental car is involved in an accident while you’re on vacation

When Umbrella Insurance Comes into Play

To better understand how umbrella insurance works, it may help to think about where the liability limits on your homeowner’s insurance end and where the umbrella limits begin.

Let’s say, for example, a guest slips and falls on your icy driveway and sues you for $700,000. Assume that your homeowner’s insurance policy provides maximum liability limits of $300,000. If your guest wins a $700,000 judgment against you, you would have to pay $400,000 out of pocket.

Umbrella insurance comes into play when the liability limits on your homeowner’s insurance is maxed out. In this situation, it could cover the remaining $400,000.*

Added Benefits of Umbrella Insurance

  • Umbrella insurance offers broader liability coverage in certain circumstances than your homeowner’s policy. For example, unlike most standard homeowner’s policies, it covers you if you’re sued for libel, defamation, slander, or wrongful eviction. Here are some real-life scenarios, where having an umbrella policy may help:
    • Do you own a rental property? If your tenant sues you for wrongfully evicting them, or for entering the property and invading their privacy, an umbrella policy could cover you against such claims.
    • Let’s assume you left a negative review for a home contractor online. Like it or not, there’s a possibility that you might get sued for defamation (which usually isn’t included in the liability coverage in a standard home policy). In such a scenario, an umbrella policy could be critical, helping you cover litigation costs and/or any damages awarded against you.
  • An umbrella policy does more than just cover you at home — it covers you for liability anywhere in the world. So, if you accidentally injure someone when you’re driving overseas, you most likely would be covered by your umbrella policy, regardless of where the incident took place.

Do You Really Need Umbrella Insurance?

It’s a common misconception that umbrella policies are just for the wealthy. If you own a home, have retirement savings and investments, you too can’t afford to lose everything you’ve worked so hard for because of a lawsuit.

But how do you know for sure? Find out if you Need Umbrella Insurance. Also, consider talking to your Farmers agent about adding a Personal Umbrella policy to fill gaps in your insurance coverage.

*Actual limits may vary. Please see your policy documents for particular coverages and limits.

The information contained in this page is provided for general informational purposes only. The information is provided by Farmers and while we endeavor to keep the information up to date and correct, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability or availability with respect to this article or the information, products, services or related graphics, if any, contained in this article for any purpose. The information is not meant as professional or expert advice, and any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk.

Time to Update Your Home Insurance?

When it comes to taking care of your home, you have enough to worry about. Mortgage payments, repairs, upgrades, cleaning the gutters…they’re all probably at the top of your to-do list.

It might not be as obvious as a drafty window, but your home insurance is just as important to maintain.

If you don’t review and update your policy regularly, you could miss out on some substantial discounts and overlook glaring coverage gaps.

It’s a good idea to speak to your Farmers agent and review your policy if you:

1) Buy a home

Coverage for your new home is usually a must-have. First things first though, make sure that you’re insuring the home for the value you want – likely the home’s estimated reconstruction cost and not its current market value.

Also, there are certain scenarios to consider when taking a second look at your policy:

  • If you’re buying a second home. Look into Seasonal and Vacation Home Insurance
  • If you’re renting out an investment property, you may need Landlord Insurance.
  • If you’re moving to a disaster-prone area. Most home insurance policies don’t include earthquake or flood insurance coverage. Consider adding those coverages to your existing policy.

2) Remodel your home

Overhauling your kitchen? Building a new deck? Major home renovations usually boost your home’s value, but they can also hike up the cost of rebuilding your home in the event of loss.

That’s the reason you probably got home insurance in the first place – to allow you to replace or repair your home if it gets damaged or destroyed. So before and after remodeling, make sure you work with your Farmers agent to re-assess your home’s value and possibly cover any increases.

Keep in mind that you could qualify for homeowners insurance discounts for making certain upgrades. Even a small tweak, like adding a safety feature (burglar alarms, sprinklers etc.) could earn you a discount.

3) Purchase big-ticket items

You may not think to contact your insurance agent after buying a pricy necklace or gigantic flat screen TV, but it’s a really smart move. Although your standard homeowner’s policy protects valuables against a covered loss or theft, coverage is only provided up to a certain limit. When you make a substantial purchase, consider reviewing and increasing your limits and coverage.

4) Make changes to your lifestyle

Certain life events may alter your assets and your risk tolerance, and those can change how much home insurance coverage you want. Speak with your agent after any major life change, to make sure you’re still covered the way you want.

Here are some scenarios where reviewing your policy could help save you money:

  • You’ve retired: Farmers offers homeowners insurance discounts to retirees from certain professions.
  • You quit smoking: Did you know Farmers offers a discount (in some States) if you haven’t smoked in two years?

Also, if you’re generally concerned that your assets aren’t adequately covered, consider Umbrella Insurance, which provides extra liability coverage on top of your homeowner’s policy.

Many of us purchase homeowners insurance and forget about it, assuming it will always cover the property no matter what happens. But neglecting your policy could lead to coverage gaps and unexpected out-of-pocket costs. Keep in touch with your Farmers agent to make sure that your coverage is up-to-date.

The information contained in this page is provided for general informational purposes only. The information is provided by Farmers and while we endeavor to keep the information up to date and correct, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability or availability with respect to this article or the information, products, services or related graphics, if any, contained in this article for any purpose. The information is not meant as professional or expert advice, and any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk.

Get Your Roof Ready for Hail Season

When seasonal thunderstorms roll through, they often bring your roof’s arch nemesis — hail. Every year, hailstorms cause millions of dollars in property damage and roofs take the hardest hits. Unfortunately, fixing or replacing a roof is a major financial undertaking that many homeowners are not prepared for.

That’s why it’s smart to get your roof in top notch condition ahead of time. Taking preventative steps now can go a long way toward helping you survive hail season without costly damages and repairs.

How Hail Damages a Roof

Imagine if a thousand golf balls bombarded your home at high speeds. It might cause damages like:

1) Shingle Damage

Can pea-sized hail damage your roof? Probably not, but larger hailstones may dent shingles, and in severe cases, leave holes and cracks.

It’s never a good idea to assume those bruises are cosmetic. Hail damage, if left untreated, can cause your roof to deteriorate over time and lead to leaks and water damage.

2) Granule Loss

Missing granules from the roof are a common type of hail damage, and one to look out for. Hail can chip away at the protective coating of granules on your shingles that defend against UV rays. Exposed shingles weaken and age with sun damage, which drastically shortens your roof’s life span.

Talk to a trusted contractor or roofer about checking your roof for granule loss after a big hail storm.

Hail-Resistant Roofs

The older the roof, the higher the chances a serious hail pelting might damage it. If you live in a hail prone area, you might consider upgrading to an impact-resistant roof covering, designed to withstand hail storms with minimal scarring.

Talk to a roofing contractor about what materials are available and which ones are best suited for your needs. As general rules of thumb:

  • Materials with a UL 2218 Class 4 rating offer superior protection against hail. (Roofing materials such as asphalt shingles are rated on a scale of 1 to 4 based on the UL 2218 test, which assesses how well they stand up to hail.)
  • Rigid roof coverings, such as tile, are also rated on a scale of 1 to 4 based on the ice-ball impact test (FM 4473). Look for products with the highest possible rating using this standard.

Again, a reputable roofing contractor can help guide you through the decision-making process.

Set Up a Roof Inspection

A new roof can cost an arm and a leg, but renovating your existing roof can potentially save you lots of trouble and money down the line.

Consider having your roof inspected (even if there are no obvious signs of decay) by a trusted professional. Fixing any problem areas now will make your roof less susceptible to damage from hail.

After a Hail Storm

Whether your roof is ready or not, chances are it will bear the brunt of hail season. Although hail damage isn’t always easy to spot, here are some warning signs to look out for:

  • Dents or spots on the roof
  • Missing granules in your gutters
  • Water spots in your attic

If you suspect damage after a storm has passed, act quickly. It’s always a good idea to get a professional inspection and make any recommended repairs.

In addition to keeping you protected from the elements, having an updated roof may also help you qualify for a homeowners insurance discount. Make sure your home is covered the way you want from weather damage and hail. Get a homeowners insurance quote today or talk to a Farmers agent about coverage before hail season gets here.

The information contained in this page is provided for general informational purposes only. The information is provided by Farmers and while we endeavor to keep the information up to date and correct, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability or availability with respect to this article or the information, products, services or related graphics, if any, contained in this article for any purpose. The information is not meant as professional or expert advice, and any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk.

Get Your Home Earthquake Ready

“Did you feel that?”

If you live in an earthquake-prone area, it’s probably a question you’ve heard before…and one that might give you a panic attack. There are ways, though, to prepare for the next temblor, better protect you and your family, and calm your nerves a bit.

Creating an earthquake action plan in case disaster strikes is your first line of defense. It’s also crucial to strengthen your home ahead of time, so it’s less vulnerable when a quake hits.

Also known as “seismic retrofitting,” reinforcing your home’s structure ensures that the foundation, floor, and walls are fastened together and bolted down, from below the ground up, better protecting it from earthquakes. Work with a licensed contractor or an engineer to reinforce your home’s structure, rather than trying to do it yourself.

Here are three common types of retrofits you can ask your contractor about:

1) Repairing and Bolting the foundation

Ask yourself: If an earthquake struck today, is my home’s foundation solid enough to withstand a heavy beating? Keep in mind older homes are especially in danger of frail or cracked foundations.

Seismic retrofitting starts with repairing a weak foundation so it’s more stable, secure, and resistant to damage from earthquakes.

It’s also important to ask your contractor if your home is properly bolted to its foundation. Foundation bolting attaches your home’s wood frame to the foundation with anchor bolts and metal plates.

2) Bracing the cripple walls

Another smart upgrade involves adding plywood sheathing to shore up the cripple wall or the short wood wall, which extends from the foundation to beneath the floor of the house. If the cripple wall is not stiff enough, it can literally cripple your main floor, which can buckle under the pressure of an earthquake.

3) Bracing unreinforced chimneys and walls

Some older homes have walls or chimneys made of brick or other masonry, which aren’t braced securely. During an earthquake, they can crumble or crash into your home. A licensed contractor or engineer can inspect your chimney and recommend any repairs.

An earthquake can hit your home with force enough to simply rattle your glass wear, or strike with devastating results, completely destroying your home. Without proper preparation or earthquake insurance (if available in your area), a powerful quake can leave you with a massive repair bill or even worse, without a roof over your head. Contractor and retrofitting costs can add up, but if you live in an earthquake zone, it pays to be prepared, as your home is more likely to ride out an earthquake with less damage.

You can also take some smart precautions around the house to make it more earthquake-resistant. Lock down or anchor anything that’s likely to fall and crash when a quake hits, such as bookcases, drawers, appliances, electronics, and valuables. And remember, most homeowner’s policies do not cover earthquake damage. Speak to a Farmers agent for more information on earthquake insurance.

Home Insurance Calculator

In the most basic of terms, when thinking about Homeowners insurance, homeowners should consider the following:

Property Limits + Liability Limits
=
Homeowners Insurance Limits

The Details

You probably spent a pretty penny on your home. Talked to endless mortgage lenders, searched high and low for the right house, negotiated prices, paid plenty of fees and costs. Now you have to insure it too!

But how do you know you have the right amount of coverage for your house?

Let’s cut through the confusion and assist you in choosing how much Homeowners insurance you want to cover your major investment, by taking into account the:

1) Value of your home:

We don’t mean what you paid for your house, or even what you could sell it for. That’s determined by the housing market and demand in your area. The “value” we’re talking about is the cost to rebuild it from the ground up, if a total loss (heaven forbid) ever happened.

When estimating this value, you should think about the:

  • Age of your home – if your home is older and something happens, you may have to rebuild to modern building code standards…and that might be more expensive.
  • Local construction costs – talk to local contractors, look online, or speak to your insurance agent. They’ll help give you a good idea of labor and materials costs, and help you determine how much it’d cost to rebuild a home like yours.
  • Upgrades, renovations, and additions – if you’ve done some remodeling or added a sun room or something, that can up the cost to rebuild after a disaster. Make sure you take that into account, and inform your insurance company, to make sure you have that addition covered.

After you’ve crunched the numbers, talk to a Farmers agent. They can run a “replacement cost estimator” which takes a variety of variables into consideration, to help you find the coverage you want.

2) Value of your personal property

Homeowners insurance not only covers the cost to rebuild your place, it’s also there to cover the stuff you’ve got inside. So to make sure everything from your bedroom furniture to that sweet new widescreen TV is covered, you’ve got to know what it’s all worth right? And no, we don’t want you to eye ball it.

That way, you’ll know the approximate value of what you own to determine the proper amount of coverage for you in case something happens.

3) Value of your assets

Ok, so you’ve got the physical stuff covered. But what about your other assets? As a home owner, you’re responsible for everything that happens on your property. So if a neighbor comes over with a fruit basket, but slips and falls on your icy front step, they could possibly sue you and go after your savings, your business…whatever it takes to cover any judgment they obtain against you. What’s there to cover you then?

That’s when the Liability coverage of Homeowners insurance comes in. Subject to some limitations, Liability covers you when you’re legally responsible for someone else’s bodily injuries or property damage, whether or not it’s on your property.

Talk to a Farmers agent about your Liability coverage, and determine the coverage limits you want, and you’re comfortable with.

4) Value of unique, expensive, or antique items

Do you have expensive art, a rocking guitar collection, handsome grandfather clock, or beautiful jewelry? Valuable or unique things like that might not be fully covered by your standard Homeowners insurance limits.

If you’ve got unique or expensive things in your house, consider covering them with a specific addition (also called a Floater) to your policy.

Calculate the cost or value of each item, and talk to your Farmers agent about the coverage limit you’d want.

Vacant Home Insurance

The words “vacant home” can have a pretty negative connotation. You probably picture a decrepit house with boarded up windows in a dilapidated area that no one would touch with a 39 ½” pole.

In reality, nice, normal homes go vacant every day.

Occasionally, people may buy an empty house to fix it up and flip it, or own a rental property that’s between tenants. For the most part though, people tend to leave their houses vacant after they move to a new home, and wait for their old place to sell.

Houses go vacant for other reasons too. Maybe you:

  • Got ownership of a home in an estate or will
  • Moved out of your home while it’s being renovated
  • Left on a sabbatical or extended trip

What do you do with a vacant house?

Whatever the reason, if you own a house that’s empty for a period of time, your Homeowners insurance might limit coverage. Most standard Homeowners policies include “vacancy,” “neglect” or “abandonment” exclusions, which means they can deny claims or drop your coverage if you leave your house vacant for a while.

Because vacant homes pose different risk characteristics, they’re considered a separate category for insurers, mostly because:

  • They don’t receive regular maintenance and attention, and can get damaged easily
  • They can attract thieves and vandals
  • They’re attractive to trespassers and even kids who could get hurt

There’s a solution

Vacant Home insurance exists to cover you if you have to leave a home empty (for whatever reason). It’s Specialty Home insurance designed to cover the things most vacant homes and homeowners have to deal with, like damages, vandalism, and liability issues.

You can even cancel it at any time if the place finally sells!*

While your standard Homeowners insurance doesn’t fit the bill if you don’t live there anymore, consider Vacant Home insurance to cover the house you leave behind.

Interested in Vacant Home insurance? Talk to a Farmers agent today and find out how you can get the coverage you want.

*Subject to minimum earned premium

The information contained in this page is provided for general informational purposes only, and is not meant as professional or expert advice. Every attempt is made to ensure accuracy and timeliness, however all content is presented without guarantees.

How to Plan a Roof Renovation

Welcome to Farmers Home Renovation Series. Covering everything from bathrooms to roofs, these articles provide suggestions to help you plan your renovation, speak confidently to a contractor, and get the biggest bang for your renovation buck.

It may not be as glamorous as a new kitchen or sun room, but a roof renovation can mean the difference between a beautiful, safe home, and a shabby, leaky one. After all, the roof over your head protects you from the elements. Without a secure, strong roof, your other renovation projects (and the rest of the house) could be at risk.

Where do you start? To get the roof you want, and not waste time or money, it’s important to know:

1) Do you need a roof renovation?

Unless your living room is perpetually peppered with buckets catching leaks, or you hear your neighbors gossiping about your outdated roof, chances are you’ve probably never considered replacing it. Waiting until those leaks get worse though, or for other serious problems to arise can be a costly mistake. On the other hand, being proactive and replacing or repairing your roof can save you time, money, and frustration in the future.

In addition to protecting your home and its contents, a new roof can give your house a more contemporary look, improve energy efficiency, increase your resale value, and possibly earn you a home insurance discount!

Most people can’t do it alone, though. If you’re thinking of replacing or renovating your roof, or thinking about it now that you’re reading this, it’s time to find a trusted roofer or contractor to partner with through the process.

2) How to Find your Roofer/Contractor?

Hiring a contractor or roofer is a pivotal decision. Some homeowners may want to do it themselves, but typically, a roof replacement is too complicated and too important to DIY.

To make life easier, and make sure the job is done right, take the time up front to find a trusted contractor or roofer in your area. That way, you can work together from day one. A few good methods for locating a roofer or contractor are to:

  • Talk to friends, family, and neighbors who may have had a roof renovation in the past.
  • Take a trip to the local lumberyard or hardware store and ask for names of experienced roofers or contractors.
  • Look in the Yellow Pages™ and make a few phone calls.
  • Search the internet. Sites like Angie’s List™ and the Better Business Bureau® are helpful resources.
  • Ask for a list of licensed roofers or contractors in your area from the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.

3) Would minor repairs be enough?

Do you need to completely replace your roof or would some repairs and refurbishment be sufficient?

Honestly, you might not know off the top of your head. That’s where your roofer or contractor comes in. They can get up there and help evaluate your roof.

Before you send anyone up a ladder though, ask yourself a few important questions:

  • Does your roof look old? Older, dirty, or discolored roofs may only need to be cleaned. However, discoloration can also be a sign of water damage, which could require a renovation.
  • Does your roof chronically leak? If you find yourself dealing with a leaky ceiling every season, it might be time to replace your roof.
  • Do you have heating and insulation issues? If your house has a hard time heating up, or you find air leaks, it may be time to renovate your roof and improve your insulation.

If you and your roofer or contractor have decided you need a roof replacement, it’s time to think about what kind of new roof you’d like.

4) Which material is right for you?

Outside of choosing your roofer, selecting roof materials is maybe the second most important decision you’ll make when replacing your roof. Material choice affects the look and performance of your roof, and is the major indicator of total cost.

There are many materials to choose from, but keep in mind local building codes, styles, availability, roof angle, and your own budget may limit your choices. First things first, talk to your trusted roofer or contractor about what’s available and what materials could work for your roof.

It may also help to learn more about the materials out there before making any decisions:

  • Asphalt composition shingles – generally the least expensive and most widely used roofing material, these may not be the most stylish shingles, but they work for a variety of roof angles and styles.
  • Clay / concrete tile – overlapping concrete or clay tiles can be stylish and effective. Both have a long lifespan, require minimal maintenance, and offer natural insulation.
  • Wood shingles / shake – a high-quality but expensive choice, wood shingles or shake offers a beautiful, natural look, even as it ages, and can last up from 30-50 years, if properly maintained. These might not be available in your state.
  • Metal roofing – a durable and versatile choice, metal roofs come in many styles, and are fairly maintenance-free. Metal roofing is hard to come by though, is one of the more expensive materials, and may also be susceptible to denting.
  • Slate roofing – stone slate offers a natural, rustic style along with natural waterproof, fireproof, and insulating qualities. It is fairly heavy and expensive though.
  • Composition slate – made of recycled synthetics, this material is a lightweight, more affordable, and less slippery substitute for true slate roofing.

5) How long does the job take?

Professional installation is an added cost, but it’s a small price to pay for knowing the job will be done right and in a short amount of time. This minimizes the risks of leaving parts of the job unfinished for weeks. In fact, a professional roofer or team of roofers can usually finish an installation job in just a few days! This typically involves:

  • Removing existing shingles.
  • Repairing or replacing roof wood.
  • Installing flashing.
  • Installing insulation and water-barrier material.
  • Installing roofing shingles or shake.

The exact timing of the job depends on a variety of factors, like the material, size of the roof, weather, and number of people working on it. Get an estimate from your roofer or contractor of time and cost before starting any work.

The information contained in this page is provided for general informational purposes only, and is not meant as professional or expert advice. Every attempt is made to ensure accuracy and timeliness, however all content is presented without guarantees.

Renovating a Bathroom

Welcome to Farmer’s Home Renovation Series. Covering everything from bathrooms to roofs, these articles will give you the info you need to plan your renovation, speak confidently to a contractor, and get the biggest bang for your renovation buck.

It’s probably the smallest room in your house, but you spend a ton of “quality” time there. That’s why bathrooms have always been one of the most popular rooms to renovate. After all, if you’re going to be in there a lot, starring at the walls, the shower head, or yourself in the mirror, you might as well like what you see right?

If you’re thinking of renovating or remodeling your bathroom, you’ve probably got at least a few ideas in mind. Maybe it’s a color scheme, a tile design, or a super modern bath fixture you saw at the Jones’ house (so jealous!).

But where do you start?

Do you hire a contractor first? Buy all your fixtures and tiles together? What about budgeting…how much should you spend?

To get the bathroom of your dreams, and not go completely insane, it’s important to follow these three major steps:

1) Plan Ahead

Research:

  • Measuring! Measure your bathroom top to bottom. Measure dimensions of your shower, toilet, and vanity.
  • Know what you want before you buy. Go online, walk around hardware stores, talk to friends, and browse renovation magazines.
  • Use everything at your disposal to find the colors, fixtures, tiles, shower heads, and accoutrements you like.
  • Find a good contractor in your area.

Budget:

  • According to Remodeling.com, in 2014, bathroom remodeling cost on average $16,128, and netted about $11,688 in resale value. Hard numbers like that can be misleading though, since pricing variables (like material prices, labor costs, etc.) range widely across the country. Generally speaking, you should plan on spending about 12-15% of your home’s value on a really good, full bathroom renovation.

Schedule and plan:

  • Define the duration and scope of your renovation. Know exactly what you want changed. And keep in mind that timing depends more on how many renovations or fixtures you’re replacing, than the size of your bathroom.
  • Order materials ahead of time. Materials (especially custom-built ones) can take time to arrive. Build that into your plan so your fixtures are available when your contractor needs them.
  • If your house only has one bathroom, plan ahead! Have a place where you can shower and “go” when you need to.

2) Design the space

Picking Fixtures:

  • Fixtures can be your biggest expense. So to keep costs down, but still get what you want, make a list of “must-haves.” There’ll be a few splurges along the way, but find the best prices for your essentials.
  • Don’t get overwhelmed. Focus on a single area of the bathroom at a time, pick your fixtures for each area, and then move onto the next.
  • Blend style and functionality. Remember, you’re actually going to be using this room…so find fixtures that make life easier and look good at the same time.

Flooring and Tiling:

  • Find the right balance between durable and design tiles. Ceramic, marble, and stone tiles are good for durability and water-resistance.
  • Mosaic and glass tiles are better for color and style
  • Use expensive tiles strategically. To cut costs, use fancy tiles as accents or borders, around less expensive, more durable tile. Get creative and make unique patterns!
  • Make sure flooring and tiles are well sealed. This is a wet room, and you don’t want to worry about costly water damage later on.

Buying Materials:

  • There are generally two ways to buy your fixtures and materials before a job. You can purchase them yourself and look for discounts and good buys on your own. Or you can go through your contractor, who usually gets deep discounts on materials, but may charge a mark up to you.
  • Purchase and receive all your parts and fixtures before the work starts!

3) Do the work

Sequence the job:

  • First of all, let the contractor do the work. If they’re experienced and trustworthy, you can trust them to do the job well and within the time you’ve agreed on.
  • As a good rule of thumb, have your contractor work top down. That means starting at the ceiling, working on the walls and fixtures, and then finishing with the floors. This helps to keep things ordered, timely, and helps protect new components as the job goes on.

The information contained in this page is provided for general informational purposes only, and is not meant as professional or expert advice. Every attempt is made to ensure accuracy and timeliness, however all content is presented without guarantees.

Hiring a Contractor

It may not be a life or death decision, but choosing the right contractor for your remodeling job can mean the difference between a gorgeous renovation and an expensive, endless, stressful nightmare.

You hire a contractor because you want your renovation done on time, with the right materials, and for the right price. But trust the wrong person, and your renovation could get out of hand. So take control of your home and learn how to hire a great contractor.

So when remodeling your home:

1) Conduct a thorough search for contractors

Find a few contractors to choose from and have options:

  • Talk to friends, family, and neighbors…anyone that’s done some renovation in the past.
  • Take a trip to the local lumberyard or quarry. People there see a lot of contractors and often know who has experience and buys quality materials.
  • Look in the Yellow Pages™ and make a few phone calls.
  • The internet is another great resource, but don’t trust everything you read. Sites like Angie’s List™ and the Better Business Bureau® are helpful resources.
  • Get a list of licensed contractors in your area from the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.

2) Check credentials and work history

When you hire a new employee, you check their resume, contact past employers, and look at their work history right? Well when it comes to hiring a contractor, you’re the boss and your home is the job. So do your research.

You may want to consider looking only for contractors who:

  • Have at least 7 years of experience.
  • Are licensed/bonded in your state.
  • Have a good reputation in your area and with the Better Business Bureau®.
  • Have liability and workers’ compensation insurance.
  • Have no court records for liens, lawsuits or complaints if your state licensing bureau provides that information.

3) Ask important questions

If this is your first time doing renovations, you may not know exactly what to ask or how to protect your interests. And unfortunately, there are dishonest people out there, more than happy to take your money, do shoddy work, and bill you for more. So to weed out the scammers, consider asking important questions like:

  • How long have you been doing business in the area? (Get a list of subcontractors and references)
  • Who are your suppliers? (Talk to the people that supply their materials)
  • Do you usually take on projects this size? (Consider a contractor that’s done this before.)
  • How many other projects do you have going at the same time? (Know they’re not spreading their resources thin)
  • Can you provide a list of other completed projects? (Talk to other people who’ve worked with the contractor or view other properties they’ve worked on)

4) Get multiple bids

Ok, by now you have a smaller list of contractors who are hopefully on the up and up. Speak to each one face-to-face. Give them each the same project specs, pictures of fixtures, lists of materials, blueprints, and anything that will give them a full picture of the job. Then ask them for a bid and a cost breakdown so you can compare price.

A quick note: Consider tossing out lowball offers. It’s good to save money during a renovation, but most of the time, lowball offers don’t mean value; they often mean cutting corners. Remember, this is your home! So focus on quality over price, as long as it’s in your budget.

5) Break down costs and payment schedule

After you’ve decided on a bid and a contractor, know exactly how you’re going to pay them and where your money is going. Ask for a full itemized list of costs for expenses, materials, fixtures, and labor. Then agree to a payment schedule built around specific and measurable project milestones.

As a good rule of thumb, for large projects consider putting 10% down at contract signing, three payments of 25% spread out over the project, and 15% when it’s finished.

6) Review and sign a contract

Before you start the job or put any money down, consider requesting a written contract. Generally speaking, you never want to get any work started or agree to anything that isn’t formalized in a contract, even if you trust the contractor. Don’t run the risk of being taken advantage of. Spell out timetables, required work, materials…everything, in a contract. Then have your lawyer or a trusted adviser review it before you sign.

“Green” Your Home This Weekend

Unless you’re the bad guy from some environmentally-conscious 90’s cartoon show, you probably give a hoot about the planet. But you don’t need to compost in the backyard or buy an electric car to be awesome to the environment. Basic changes around the house can make your home more environmentally friendly, and added bonus, dramatically cut your energy bills!

Here are 5 easy things you can do this weekend to make your home more energy-efficient, reduce greenhouse gases, and save some money to boot:

1) Change five light bulbs

They may look a little funny and cost a little more up front, but the new generation of LED lightbulbs are much more efficient than their incandescent brethren. They use less energy, last longer, and actually cost less over their lifetime than incandescents and CFLs. So try replacing 5 light bulbs in your house this weekend to put a dent in your electricity bill and reduce waste. And if the brighter color bothers you, just put them in closets, your laundry room, or out of the way areas.

2) Use more power strips

New gadgets and devices are awesome…but they can skyrocket your energy bills if you let them. That’s because anything with a digital readout or transformer box on its power cord still cycles and uses electricity, even when it’s not in use! To stop the hemorrhaging, try plugging all your electronics into power strips. When no one’s using them, turn off the strip and you could save up to 10% on your energy bill just like that.

3) Clean your fridge coils

Dirty refrigerator coils have to work harder to keep your food cool, so they’ll use more energy. And between dust and general house grime, coils can get pretty filthy over the years. This weekend, grab the vacuum, a duster, and a damp rag and clean off your refrigerator coils. Just please, wash your hands afterwards.

4) Forget the answering machine

For decades, answering machines were a staple of the modern home. But these days, with digital voicemail services (and the fact that so many people use mobile phones) they’ve become pretty passé. Problem is, a lot of people still keep answering machines at home…and they’re sucking up unnecessary energy 24/7. So skip the answering machine, use voicemail systems, and save energy and money!

5) Get Energy-Star rated appliances / equipment

Thinking about replacing that old lamp, microwave, stove, or even a busted heating and cooling system? If you’re shopping this weekend, consider appliances or equipment with an EPA ENERGY STAR label.

Available on all kinds of things, ENERGY STAR rated products are tested and approved to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and use less energy than their non-rated equivalents.

Home Inventory

The old adage “knowing is half the battle” probably wasn’t first uttered about Home insurance…but it still works!

Because when it comes to covering your stuff, it’s important to first know what stuff you’re covering, right? And that means taking an inventory.

A full home inventory can do wonders for your Home insurance. It can:

  • Help you figure out how much insurance to buy
  • Speed up the claims process
  • Help verify losses for your income tax return

What is a home inventory, and how is it done?

A home inventory is what it sounds like; a detailed list of everything in your home…from basement to attic, furniture to fixtures. If you bought it, it goes on the list.

For everything in the inventory, you’ll want to include a(n):

  • Description of the item
  • Serial number
  • Purchase date
  • Estimated value

How you make the inventory is up to you though. You can write everything down in a notebook, make a spreadsheet, get super techy with cool inventory apps, or be creative and make a home movie of all your stuff (complete with a celebrity voice over). However you get it done, just make sure you’re as thorough as you can be!

Physically walk around your house to build your list. You don’t want to do it from memory, because we’re all humans and our memory isn’t always spot on.

  • Go from room to room and organize your list that way. It’s faster and easier.
  • Save receipts! You’ll want to describe the cost of your inventoried items, and receipts are much more accurate than guessing.
  • Take pictures! Pull out that smart phone, disposable camera, or reliable old Polaroid and visually record the things on your inventory.

Once you’ve got your inventory (whatever form it takes), make sure to protect it. Store it in a safety deposit box, in a strong safe or lockbox, on a cloud storage service, or with a friend. Just make sure it’ll survive if there’s ever major damage to your home. Remember that’s what it’s there for!

3 Reasons to Buy Renters Insurance

For generations renting was what twenty-something’s did. You got a degree, you got a job, you rented for a little while, and then you bought a house, had some kids, lived that American dream.

Now with the job market where it is and the mortgage crisis still in our short-term memories, renting’s looking like a solid option to more and more people (beyond their 20’s).

But even if you choose to rent instead of buy, it’s still important to protect your assets. That’s why homeowners get Homeowners insurance. And that’s why as a renter, you should probably consider Renters insurance.

It Helps You Protect Yourself and Your Stuff

Renters insurance works much the same way Homeowners insurance does…except it’s tailored to renters (thus the name). See, when you rent, some think that the Landlord’s insurance covers you and your stuff too.

But no dice. Your Landlord’s insurance is only there to cover them and their property…not yours.

That’s why Renters insurance is so important! It works to cover your:

  • Personal possessions – coverage for your things (clothes, furniture, electronics…that kind of stuff) up to your coverage limit.
  • Personal liability – coverage if you’re ever legally responsible for an injury or property damage, like if you drop some water and a guest slips and sues.
  • Medical payments – coverage for medical expenses if someone (other than a resident) gets hurt in an accident at your place.
  • Additional Living Expenses – coverage for extra temporary living expenses if your place is damaged and becomes uninhabitable.

Renters can cover you in all kinds of real-world situations.

It Fills Coverage Gaps

Renters insurance can also fill gaps left by your other policies, like your Auto insurance. Let’s say, for instance that you leave your laptop in your car one night after work. At some point, a criminal walks by and thinks “Man, I could really use a new laptop.” You come out the next day to a broken window and a laptop-less car. Thankfully you have Auto insurance right…so you’re covered! Again, no dice. While the window might be covered, most Auto policies don’t cover personal items left inside. But Renters does! In this case, your Renters insurance could help replace your stolen laptop.

It’s Crazy Affordable

If you needed another reason to consider Renters…here it is. It’s incredibly cheap! Much cheaper than other coverage types, and usually only a couple of cents a day (yes, we said “cents”). And if you add it to your other existing policies, like an Auto or Life insurance policy, you could save even more dough.

Fires, theft, weather damage…these things happen, and they’re just as likely in a rented apartment as they are in a house. To protect themselves, Homeowners get homeowners insurance. So if you rent, consider Renters insurance. It’s a good precaution in a risky universe.

Buying a Vacation Home

You’re at that point in your life when you can really start enjoying the fruits of your labor. Maybe you have a great home, a couple of cars in the driveway, a stable career, and some solid investments.

For you, now might be the perfect time to buy that little mountain cabin, lakeside hideaway, or seaside beach house you’ve always dreamed of.

Consider these important factors before you make that down payment:

1) Your goals

Why do you want to buy a second home? Is it an investment property, a potential place to retire, or a vacation home? Many second homeowners use their house for all three, renting out their property part time, using it for their vacation needs, and retiring there later in life.

Think about what you want out of a second home. Which features, size, and locations are important to you? Work out a tentative budget, keeping in mind fees, taxes, insurance needs, renovations, and year-round utility costs.

2) Location

Buying a second home is a long-term investment and, unlike a rental or hotel, you can’t pick up and try again as easily. That’s why it’s all about location, location, location! Location determines where you’ll spend your time, which amenities you’ll have access too, what the weather is like, which risks there are…it’s all about location.

Consider how far your vacation house will be from your permanent residence. You’ll want to spend as much time there as you can, but if it’s a six-hour drive, or a plane ride away, you’re less likely to use the house every weekend. Look for a house that’s within a two-hour drive and you’ll be more likely to make regular use of it.

Have a thorough understanding of the area. Spend a lot of time there, especially off-season, to get a full picture of the town. Really get to know the area, the people, and surrounding neighborhoods.

3) Local risks

Even the nicest places in the world have their warts, and most likely, your vacation home will too. Maybe your favorite beach town has a history of hurricanes and flooding, or your mountain cabin has an issue with frozen pipes. No matter how beautiful an area may be, there are always risks. Identify them beforehand, and insure your new home from them if need be.

Talk to the locals, contractors, insurance agents, and friends to discover the risks associated with the area around your vacation home such as:

  • Crime rate
  • History of the home
  • Natural dangers and disasters (floods, earthquakes, wind, tornados, heat, cold, etc.)

4) When you’re not there

You may spend time in your second home, but until you retire there, it won’t take the place of your primary residence. When you go home, who will look after the house? If there is a plumbing issue, a leak, or a break in, will you only find out when you return days, weeks, or months later?

To mitigate these risks, consider:

  • A security system or security cameras. These days, you can sync motion sensor cameras right to your smart phone and monitor your second home from the palm of your hand.
  • Making friends in the neighborhood! Ask a trusted friend to look in on the place while you’re away.

That begs another important question: Do you want to rent the house when you’re not using it?

Renting your vacation home is a great way to subsidize the mortgage, but there are added factors and responsibilities to consider, like:

  • Time and effort finding the right renters.
  • Determining the time it’s available for you to use vs. the time it’s rented.
  • Costs, taxes, fees, and insurance associated with being a landlord.
  • The possible need for a management company, to help manage the property on site.

5) Resale value

Consider how the value of your second home will increase or appreciate over time. Again, it’s truly a matter of location. Look for areas where property values have steadily increased over the years. Investigate who is moving to these areas, new and planned construction, and trends in average home sales.

6) Additional home coverage

To cover your vacation home and the associated liability risks, it’s important to insure your new house with Seasonal and Vacation Home Insurance. This coverage is different from standard Homeowners Insurance, because it’s designed specifically for the demands and unique value of a vacation home.

Vacation Home Insurance typically provides:

  • Comprehensive property coverage – covers a variety of physical losses.
  • Named peril coverage – covers perils like fires, wind, hail, and lightning.
  • Liability coverage –covers damages and legal fees if you’re found legally responsible for injuries or damages to someone.
  • Actual cash value – covers the cost to replace or repair your property, based on its current value, age, and condition.
  • Agreed loss settlement – covers the value of your home, minus any deductible.

A second home can have a lot of monetarily and intangible value. It can be a solid investment, but also a place of respite from the world, somewhere to build memories with your family. It’s not all fun and relaxation though. There are costs, in both time and money, to get the home you want. Weigh your options, do your research, and plan ahead, so you’ll get the most out of the home you’ve always dreamt of.

Talk to a Farmers agent today about insuring your vacation home, and the discounts and options available to you.

The information contained in this page is provided for general informational purposes only, and is not meant as professional or expert advice. Every attempt is made to ensure accuracy and timeliness, however all content is presented without guarantees.

Prepare for Severe Summer Weather

We’ve waited a long while for summertime. Huddled around space heaters and fireplaces all winter long, we dreamed of a day we could walk outside in flip flops.

Unfortunately, Mother Nature has some interesting plans this summer.

Droughts in the west, flash flood and tornado warnings across the central US, and hurricane season gearing up in the east. From coast to coast, summer is also the time for extreme weather.

But we still want to enjoy our summer right?

That’s why it’s important to prepare now. Because we may not be able to control or predict serious weather, but we can prepare for it.

What can you do to help protect yourself, your family, and your home from severe weather?

Thunderstorms and tornados:

Between warm air from Texas and cooler trends in the Great Lakes, central and southern mid-Atlantic regions turn into a weather warzone in the summer months. So to prepare:

  • Keep an emergency supplies kit prepped and in the house, filled with water, non-perishable food, first aid kit, blankets and warm clothes, medication and tools to last at least 5 days.
  • Know the safest places to be during a storm, like a basement, shelter, or cellar.
  • Secure your home and reinforce windows with storm shutters.
  • Before a storm hits make sure to bring in anything you keep outside, like lawn chairs or umbrellas.

Hurricanes:

Hurricane season usually hits the coasts around late August or September. We’ve all seen on the news or experienced for ourselves how life changing they can be. So if you live in a coastal town:

  • Take warnings seriously and prepare now. Unlike tornados, hurricanes take time to build and move to land…which gives us some time to get ready.
  • Have an emergency kit and action plan ready.
  • Secure your home and board up windows.
  • Know how to get out of the area if you’re told to evacuate. Even consider evacuating before there is an order to avoid the traffic jams that often result once an order is issued.

Wildfires:

Extreme heat and dryness makes for drought conditions across the west, northwest, and even into Texas. If you live around there, you know full well that droughts can lead to wildfires. But did you know there are ways to defend your home? Strategically landscaping within about 100 feet of your home can direct flames around the house and protect it! Try:

  • Growing more native vegetation
  • Removing dead or dying trees and shrubs
  • Not connecting wood fencing to your home
  • Moving firewood and storage tanks 50 feet from the house, and clearing 10 feet areas around them
  • Trimming branches so they don’t extend over the roof or the chimney

Storms and Flash Floods:

Across the Rockies and along the Mississippi, heavy rain and storms in the summertime can cause flooding. They come on quickly, but there are ways to prepare and help protect yourself and your home:

  • Start by checking your roof and foundation for leaks.
  • French Drains are a good investment, since they divert water away from your property.
  • If water gets in, your best bet is to minimize the damage and protect your valuables. Keep expensive stuff, old family photos, art work, electronics, and your stamp collection elevated and off the ground. Put them on top floors or on shelves or tables.
  • Look into getting Flood insurance, if you don’t already have it. Most likely, your standard Home insurance won’t cover flood damage or replace stuff destroyed in a flood.

Summer is a glorious time of vacations, sunning, and relaxing…and you should all be able to enjoy it! So if you live in an area where severe summer weather is a fact of life, do the prep work now. Make an emergency plan and talk to your family. That way, if disaster strikes, you’re confident and ready…and not spending your summer worrying.

How to Quickly Put Out a House Fire

Home fires are serious business. So if you’re ever facing a real fire, it’s always smart to call 911 and let the pros do their job. Still, when it comes to home fires, some quick action on your part can mean the difference between a little flame and a lot of costly damage.

That’s why it’s smart to:

1) Get a home fire extinguisher.

They’re a must-have item, and a great way to either stop a fire before it gets out of hand or control it while you escape. But before you face a potential fire, go ahead and read the directions. Because more important than just having a fire extinguisher is actually knowing how and when to use it! Most extinguishers in your average hardware store are rated Type A:B:C, which means they’re ok to use on just about any kind of fire. But read the directions on your extinguisher, know which type it is, and know how to use it.

2) Know how to put out different types of house fires.

  • Small electrical fires – Never use water! Switch off the power to whatever started the fire, and smother it with a clean, nonflammable blanket. You can also use a Type C fire extinguisher. (Your average Type A:B:C extinguisher is ok too.)
  • Small cooking fires – If a grease fire starts in your kitchen, never try to put it out with water! Calmly turn the heat off to the pan and try to cover it with a metal lid. If you can’t do that, smother the flames with baking soda (a lot of baking soda!) or use a Type A:B:C fire extinguisher.
  • Small gas fires – If your home uses gas, you should know how to put out a small gas fire. Immediately shut off the gas supply. You can smother the fire with a thick rug, put it out with cool water, or use a Type B extinguisher. (Again, Type A:B:C extinguishers will work too.)

Something to remember though, whenever (and we mean whenever!) you see smoke or fire, call 911. It’s good to know how to control a small fire, but never leave it to chance. Get yourself, your loved ones, and guests out of the house, call the fire department, and leave it to the experts.

5 Easy Tips to Prevent Water Damage

Most Homeowners insurance policies cover basic water damage claims up to the purchased limit.

But you know what’s a lot easier than going through the claims process? Preventing the water damage in the first place!

Check out these 5 suggestions for preventing water damage:

1) Be careful where you plant

Some plants and trees, like weeping willows, have pretty invasive roots. If you’re not careful, they’ll grow right into your sprinkler system, drainage field, pipes, and septic tanks. Plan before you plant to keep roots away from any water lines.

2) Clean out roof gutters

You know it’s on your to-do list anyway, so if you can, take a safe climb up to your roof next Sunday and check out your gutters. If you’re seeing lots of leaves, birds’ nests, sticks, and whatnot up there, your gutters may not be doing the job you hired them for. And on a rainy day, a clogged gutter can send water spilling into your home’s foundation, through the roof, or down to your basement. That could cause some serious water damage! So next time you’re doing some seasonal cleaning, make sure those gutters are clean. And if your gutters are too high, be safe and get a professional to check them.

3) Keep an eye on your water bill

With so many water pipes hidden behind walls and in the floors in your house, you might not know there’s a leak until the damage is done. That’s why it’s a good idea to keep a close eye on your monthly water bill. If you see it starting to creep up, or get one that’s uncommonly high, it’s a pretty good sign that you may have a leak somewhere.

4) Use a drain snake instead of unclogging chemicals

No matter how crazy clean you are, from your shower to your kitchen sink, clogs are going to happen. And chances are at some point in your life you’ve used one of those powerful chemical drain cleaners to get things moving again. But as convenient as they may be, most folks don’t realize those caustic chemicals are also eating away at their pipes (and they might not be too good for you either). If you rely on them a lot, you could be setting yourself up for leaks. That’s why owning a drain snake is a good solution to clear away clogs. They’re pretty inexpensive, you can get them at your local hardware store, and they can cut through most any clog you’ll have without damaging pipes or making your eyes red and teary.

5) Never pour grease down your sink

You’ve probably heard this before, but you should definitely avoid pouring grease down your kitchen sink. It doesn’t matter if you flush it with hot or cold water. It can still congeal and cling to your pipes, and could still cause some serious damage and blockage.

Some people use detergent to break up grease before pouring it down the drain…and that may help sometimes. But there’s no guarantee that it’ll keep the grease from sticking to your pipes, so why take the risk?

The safest thing to do is just to pour your grease in an empty can, and either let it sit or put it in the refrigerator. Once it hardens you can toss it in the trash and get rid of it. Done and done.

Washing Machine Maintenance

Defusing a Washing Machine Water Damage Time Bomb

Who doesn’t love the smell of freshly washed clothes? How about wet and moldy flooring? No? Well, a burst water supply line causes half of all water damage incidents involving washing machines1. And on average, each incident caused more than $5,000 in damages…and plenty of smelly, moldy carpeting.

So what are the keys to keeping your washing machine from flooding?

Keep it level and replace your hoses.

Washing machines can vibrate and do a little “walking” if they’re overloaded, unbalanced or not on a level surface. Over time, this can cause cracks and loosen water hoses, causing a little dripping on the floor or even a full out flood. So make sure your washing machine is leveled, and try running smaller loads of laundry to keep it in its place.

It’s also a good rule of thumb to change out your machine’s rubber water hoses every 5 years or so. Old hoses can tear and spray, so you want to swap them out before they cause any water damage.

Replacing your water hoses is pretty easy, even if you’re not much of a do-it-yourselfer. Just:

  1. Unplug your washing machine.
  2. Turn off the water supply.
  3. Unscrew the old hoses from the back of the machine and the water supply.
  4. Screw in the new ones. (consider using stainless steel hoses, since they’re stronger and last longer)
  5. Turn on the water supply and plug the machine back in.

It should only take a few minutes, and it’s definitely easier, and less costly than dealing with water damage!

1. Washing Machine Failure Risks. (2012). Retrieved April 4, 2014, from https://www.disastersafety.org/studies-reports/washing-machine-failure-risks/

Winter Weather Home Maintenance Checklist

Winter is on its way and, for most of the country, that means freezing temps, wind, snow, ice, and heavy jackets.

To prepare your home and your household for the colder months ahead, it’s important to start now. Use this handy checklist to winterize your house so you’re ready for whatever old man winter has in store.

1) Invest in weather stripping

Weather stripping is a good way to seal warm air in and cold air out of your home. Available in almost any hardware store, weather stripping installs quickly around windows and doors, and can help prevent air leaks.

Before winter arrives, check the following parts of your home for leaks or drafts:

  • Windows
  • Doors
  • Vents and fans
  • Plumbing areas
  • Air conditioners
  • Mail chutes
  • Electrical and gas lines

2) Clean your gutters

Clear gutters help drain water away from your roof and your house. If they’re clogged though, especially in colder months, they’re more apt to freeze, causing additional blockages. Blocked gutters can allow melting ice and snow to seep into your roof, or flood your home’s foundation, causing damage.

If it’s safe to do so, take some time before winter hits and clear out your gutters, or work with a trusted roofer or contractor to clean your gutters.

3) Evaluate your roof to prevent ice dams

While your roofer is cleaning the gutters, see if he or she can evaluate your roof for ice dams too.

In cold weather, heat escaping your home can melt and refreeze ice and snow on your roof, leading to ice dams. These block off drains, and let water and ice continually build up on your roof — and possibly under it — weakening your roof and putting your home at risk.

To help prevent ice dams:

  • Insulate your attic – Your attic should have plenty of insulation to prevent too much heat transfer from your living areas to the attic. Check parts of the attic that may not be well insulated, like:
    • Pipes and vents
    • Chimney systems
    • Light fixtures
  • Ventilate your attic – If your attic wasn’t built with a ventilation system, speak to a trusted contractor about ventilating your attic before winter. Proper ventilation allows cold air into the attic, while the insulation seals heat in your living areas. This prevents warm air from melting ice on the roof, leading to possible damage.

4) Buy a roof rake to keep snow from building up

According to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IIBHS), an average roof can handle up to four feet of fresh snow before it’s stressed. However, as snow packs down from multiple storms, anything more than two feet of packed snow could cause a roof collapse!

If you expect a lot of snow this winter, invest in a roof rake. It can help you easily clear snow off your roof and protect your home during those blizzard months.

5) Prune trees around the house

If there are long tree branches hanging near your house, your roof, or your gutters, prune them before it gets too cold. Branches broken from heavy snow and ice can cause all kinds of damage to your home. A few hours with the pruner now could save you thousands of dollars in damages later this winter.

6) Stock up on basics

You know what happens when the news calls for bad weather; stores flood with people, all buying milk, bread, batteries, flashlights, and duct tape by the truck load. How do you avoid this mess?

Stock up on basic supplies before winter, and stay cozy in your home.

Strong winds, blizzards, ice, and snow can cause blackouts and power outages, which can wreak havoc on your home in the winter. To prepare, keep supplies on hand, and read more about the types of alternate heating sources available for purchase.

7) Protect pipes from freezing

According to the IIBHS, a burst pipe can cause more than $5,000 in water damage! Thankfully, you can do something to protect your pipes from freezing in bitter cold weather.

Don’t turn the heat down too much when you’re out of the house. You may not be there to enjoy it, but your pipes need the heat to prevent freezing.

Let faucets drip during serious cold snaps to provide relief for your pipes.
Give your home a once over for any exposed or vulnerable piping, and wrap them with insulation. Hardware stores usually carry foam rubber or fiberglass sleeves for pipes, which are easy to install.

Caulk up cracks or holes in your walls to keep cold air away from pipes. This might not be practical for the average homeowner, so speak to a trusted contractor.

If your pipes do freeze, and water stops flowing from faucets, call a plumber immediately!

Following this checklist can better prepare you for the trials and tribulations of winter. However, sometimes seasons throw us curveballs we simply can’t plan for. That’s why it’s important to cover your home with homeowners insurance, limits, and options that work for you, and insure against damages.

Talk to a Farmers agent about the coverage you want, and any concerns you have going into this winter season.

The information contained in this page is provided for general informational purposes only. The information is provided by Farmers and while we endeavor to keep the information up to date and correct, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability or availability with respect to this article or the information, products, services or related graphics, if any, contained in this article for any purpose. The information is not meant as professional or expert advice, and any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk.

Getting the most from your renovation

Making your house a home takes love, time, effort, and sometimes, a great remodeling project. If all goes to plan, the results can be incredible. More space, updated styling, improved functionality…they’re all good reasons to renovate.

An increase in your home’s resale value doesn’t hurt either!

But before you jump into anything, know that your remodeling project might not net you the return on investment (ROI) you expect. For instance, year after year, kitchen and bathroom renovations continue to be the most popular projects. So it might surprise you to learn that statistics show remodeling those rooms doesn’t pack the biggest ROI punch anymore!

That’s not to say updating a kitchen or a bathroom, or adding new rooms can’t do wonders for your home and its resale value. But an annual study conducted by Remodeling Magazine shows that for the money, there are other projects that’ll get you a better ROI*:

Top 5 remodeling projects by ROI (from Remodeling Magazine)

  1. Replacing the Front Door with a new Steel Door – 96.9%
  2. Adding a wood Deck – 87.4%
  3. Replacing older Siding with fiber-cement Siding – 87%
  4. Building an Attic bedroom – 84.3%
  5. Replacing old Garage Door with a new Garage Door – 83.7%

*Resale value as a percentage of construction cost.

What do these findings suggest?

It looks like, in today’s market, you’re more likely to get better ROI remodeling home basics than by renovating a bath or kitchen. But why?

Kitchen and bathroom renovations are the most popular, but they can also be the most expensive projects (around 25% of your home’s value for a kitchen and 12-15% for a bathroom, according to Remodeling Magazine). Instead, faster, cheaper renovations like new windows and siding can maintain the existing structure and make your home look great without breaking the bank. They can also help your home sell for more!

Durable, low-maintenance materials are also a plus, since they lower the operational and maintenance costs of your home.

Realities of Remodeling

As telling as this info is, it’s only a national average. So you might not get exactly 87.4% back in a sale after you build a deck. What you do get back on your investment will always depend on the quality of your project, when you sell, and your housing market, region, state, city, or even neighborhood.

What can be said is that the value of remodeling is on the rise. So if you’ve been thinking about it, now might be the time.

Just remember, that (usually) remodeling projects are for you…not the next guy. If you want to remodel (especially if you don’t plan on moving anytime soon), then remodel your way. Don’t worry as much about the ROI, and enjoy your new deck, bathroom, office, kitchen…whatever!

And remember to tell your insurance agent about your remodeling project. Talk to them and make sure your Home insurance limits provide the amount of coverage you want after the renovations or additions.

Do You Have Coverage for your Home Based Business?

According to the 2012 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor report, more than two-thirds of businesses in the United States start at home, and 59% of established business owners continue to operate from home.*Any entrepreneur will tell you though, that with the perks of having a home business (no more morning commute!), come additional risks.

If you currently run a home business or have thought about starting a business out of your home, don’t make the mistake of assuming your homeowners insurance policy provides sufficient coverage.

There are separate business insurance policies available that can be critical in helping you protect your business against worst-case scenarios like liability claims, employee injuries, fraud, theft, vandalism and more. Some coverage options include:

  • Property insurance
  • Liability insurance
  • Workers’ compensation insurance
  • Business auto insurance
  • Business crime insurance

Liability Coverage and Home Businesses

Let’s face it: small businesses are easy targets for lawsuits, and it only takes one lawsuit for a business owner to face financial ruin.

While you can’t prevent a disgruntled employee or an angry client from taking legal action against you, you can protect the things you’ve worked so hard to build with business liability coverage.

For instance, imagine if the student you tutor in math trips over a toy and breaks his arm. You may find yourself facing a lawsuit.

Typically, a homeowners or a personal umbrella policy doesn’t provide coverage for incidents that take place while conducting business. Without separate business liability coverage, the medical expenses associated with his injury could be your responsibility to pay out of pocket.

(Keep in mind, as well, that in some cases you could add on an endorsement to your existing homeowners policy, for extra liability protection. Talk to your agent to see if your business qualifies.)

Property Coverage and Home Businesses

In addition to liability coverage, Business insurance can also provide coverage for your business property and office equipment.

If you’re like most home-based business owners, you may not have looked into purchasing a separate business insurance policy. After all, if your homeowners insurance covers your home, it should cover the business inside it, right?

Wrong!

Coverage for anything business-related (like your home office, samples, important paperwork, computer equipment, data etc.) is usually excluded from your homeowners insurance policy or only covered up to a low limit.

Let’s say someone broke into your home office and stole computer equipment worth thousands of dollars. How about if an accidental fire destroyed your inventory?

Business insurance can provide the financial buffer you need to get your business back on its feet by helping fund:

  • The cost of replacing your lost property
  • Replacing your lost income (in some cases).

That’s why it’s crucial for home business owners to have the right type of coverage in place. Some home businesses may require a separate commercial insurance policy to adequately cover the business exposure. However, other home businesses can be covered by adding a specified business pursuits on premises endorsement to your homeowner’s insurance policy. Examples of some businesses that may be eligible for this endorsement are: music teachers, tutors, consultants (beauty, bridal, graphic design, etc.), jewelry or handcrafts, photographers, accountants, and real estate agents.

Wondering if your home-based business is eligible for additional coverage through your homeowners policy? Interested in learning more about Farmers Business insurance? Talk to a Farmers agent, who will probably ask you the following questions:

  • Where is your business conducted, and what is the building’s primary use?
  • Is the business owned and run by you?
  • Are there any employees?
  • Does the business involve any home care services?
  • Are there any business signs displayed?
  • How many clients or customers visit the business?
  • Does the business use any hazardous or flammable materials?

For more information on whether or not your home-based business can be insured under your homeowners policy or through a business Insurance policy and additional coverage details, make sure to contact your local Farmers agent.

*http://www.babson.edu/Academics/centers/blank-center/global-research/gem/Documents/GEM%20US%202012%20Report%20FINAL.pdf

The information contained in this page is provided for general informational purposes only. The information is provided by Farmers and while we endeavor to keep the information up to date and correct, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability or availability with respect to this article or the information, products, services or related graphics, if any, contained in this article for any purpose. The information is not meant as professional or expert advice, and any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk.

Secure Your Home

Did you know that most burglaries happen between 10am and 3pm?

When you’re out of the house, make it harder for a burglar to break in with these simple and safe tips.

1) Landscape strategically

A few well-placed motion-sensor lights, some thorny bushes or plants, and a couple of pruned trees can do wonders for your home’s security! And they look ever so nice! The basic idea is to make your home more visible and make it harder for burglars to get into your house.

2) Don’t advertise your vacation

Since most robberies take place when people are out of the house, don’t make thieves’ jobs any easier by telling everyone and their mothers that you’ll be away on vacation! That goes for posting your travel plans on social media too. Wait until you’re back to post all those lovely photos and selfies in front of landmarks. It’s also a good idea to make sure your house doesn’t look uninhabited. Set lights or TV’s on a timer, have the post office hold your mail, and ask a friend to come by and pick up the paper. It may sound silly but it could help protect your home from being burglarized.

3) Hide your phone lines

An electronic home alarm system is a great way to protect your household, and it can help you sleep better at night too! The thing is, most standard alarm systems transmit their alerts over telephone lines. So if you have an alarm system, make sure your phone cables aren’t easy to spot, because they may also be easy to cut! Talk to your alarm company or your phone provider to see if it’s possible to hide your phone lines or set up a cellular signal.

4) Secure sliding doors

Just tossing a steel rod (or even something like a baseball bat) in the door channel is an easy way to secure your sliding doors. That’ll reduce the chance of someone lifting it out of the track or forcing it open.

5) Deadbolt your doors and secure windows

Strong deadbolt locks and secured windows can discourage potential thieves just by making their jobs a little bit harder. Make sure all your external doors and windows (even ones on 2nd or 3rd stories) are deadbolted and locked from the inside. If your doors and windows don’t have deadbolts and strong locks, you may want to talk to your local locksmith or handyman!

*Actual limits may vary. Please see your policy documents for particular coverages and limits.

The information contained in this page is provided for general informational purposes only. The information is provided by Farmers and while we endeavor to keep the information up to date and correct, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability or availability with respect to this article or the information, products, services or related graphics, if any, contained in this article for any purpose. The information is not meant as professional or expert advice, and any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk.

3 Reasons Why You Need Pet Insurance

If you’re a pet owner, you probably love your pets like family, and treat them just as well (maybe even better!). In fact, according to a recent study*, six out of ten pet owners (63.2 percent) consider their pets to be family members.

If you’re like most responsible head of households, you see the value in providing health insurance for your loved ones, so doesn’t it make sense to be equally prepared for your furry companions?

Many pet owners, though, make the mistake of thinking they’ll never need coverage for their pets, until it’s too late. But here’s why pet insurance is becoming a necessity rather than a luxury:

1. Pets get sick, too

Contrary to the common myth, cats don’t actually have nine lives—and neither do their canine counterparts. Our pets require frequent vet check-ups, and may even suffer from chronic illnesses or potentially devastating medical conditions that require immediate diagnosis and treatment.

As much as we’d like to think otherwise, pets aren’t superhuman. They’re not immune to sickness like allergies, diabetes, or cancer. And they’re just as accident prone as us humans, sometimes suffering from broken bones, lacerations, and injuries. In emergency situations, and with chronic vet visits, pet insurance can help you pay large and unexpected medical bills.

2) Rising animal care costs

Thanks to modern medicine, new drugs and advanced medical technologies are helping our furry friends survive and recover from once fatal conditions.

However, these developments in treatment quite literally come with a price. And, the cost of extensive or emergency veterinary treatment can cripple a typical household income.

While the average vet bill costs only a few hundred dollars, in the case of a critical illness or medical emergency, expenses add up quickly—and can run into the thousands (especially when extensive testing, surgeries, and medications are involved).

3) A financial safety net

Even if your furry family member remains healthy and accident-free throughout its lifetime, the peace of mind knowing pet insurance is there to help with the expenses can be worth every penny.

Purchasing pet insurance is a worthy option to consider for pet-owners who don’t always set aside money in their budget each month for out-of-pocket expenses related to pet illnesses or emergencies. Pet insurance can help a catastrophic illness or medical trauma from becoming financially devastating. Get an instant pet insurance quote online, to get started and find the plan that’s right for you.

*U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook (2012)

The information contained in this page is provided for general informational purposes only. The information is provided by Farmers and while we endeavor to keep the information up to date and correct, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability or availability with respect to this article or the information, products, services or related graphics, if any, contained in this article for any purpose. The information is not meant as professional or expert advice, and any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk.

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