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2019


Homeowners Insurance 101

2 pair of hands holding cutout of a house

Standard Coverage's
 

These are the coverage's offered in most states, but coverage's can vary by state. Keep in mind, insurance doesn't cover maintenance or general wear and tear.

Your House

Dwelling coverage: Anything permanently attached to your house, including attached garages, chimneys, roofs, countertops, cabinets, flooring, vanities, and even in-ground pools, etc.

Unattached Structures

Other structures: Structures not attached to your house, including sheds, unattached garages, gazebos, pergolas, fences, driveways, etc.

Your Belongings

Personal property: Your stuff, even if it's damaged or stolen away from your home. For example, personal property covers tools stored in your shed destroyed by a fire or even your computer if it's stolen from your car. 

Belongings that are commonly covered:

  • Clothing
  • Furniture
  • Decorations
  • Tools/power equipment
  • Electronics (TV's, DVD players, sound systems, etc.)
  • Toys/other games (arcade systems, billiards tables, ping-pong tables, etc.)

 Limits for belongings: Insurers typically have a per-item limit that is a percentage of your total personal property coverage. This means that certain expensive items may not be fully insured. For example, you have $100,000 in personal property coverage, but the limit for any single item is 10% of the total coverage. If your $15,000 grand piano is damaged, you'll only get a payment for $10,000, minus your deductible. Long story short: If you have expensive items, contact your insurer to get proper coverage. You'll then add them as individual items to your policy, called scheduling an item or adding a rider.

For many customers, these items commonly include:

  • Bicycles
  • Expensive/custom furniture
  • Art and collectibles (see more on art and collectibles insurance)
  • Jewelry (This can be a bit different. See more on jewelry insurance)

Temporary Living Expenses

Loss of use: If your home is damaged from a covered loss and uninhabitable, this coverage pays for hotel/rent expenses plus food (above what you'd normally pay). For example: If you usually spend $100 on groceries a week, but need to spend $500 to eat out, you'll get $400.

Lawsuits

Personal liability: If someone is injured on your property, due to your fault, or you/your family members on your policy cause damage to others' property, this coverage will kick in. If you're sued over these damages, this will also pay for your lawyer and court fees as described in your policy. For example, if your babysitter falls down your stairs because there is not adequate lighting, this would pay for her injuries. Or, if you're playing catch in the backyard and the ball accidentally breaks your neighbor's window, this coverage will pay to replace the window.

Injuries on Your Property

Medical payments: Pays medical bills if someone else is hurt at your home or on your property.

When You're Covered

Perils: These are really just events/instances that can cause damage. Which perils are covered can vary depending on your insurer and the type of policy you choose. Here are some commonly covered perils:

  • Windstorms
  • Fire and smoke
  • Lightning 
  • Hail
  • Tornadoes
  • Explosions (e.g., aerosol can or gas grill)
  • Theft and vandalism
  • Car/aircraft crashing into your home
  • Falling trees or other objects
  • Weight of snow, sleet, or ice
  • Water damage (from leaking roofs, broken pipes, water heaters, washing machines, dishwashers, or other appliances, but not floods)

If you need coverage from floods, you can purchase a separate flood insurance policy.

Your out-of-pocket costs

Deductible: Your deductible is simply the amount you have to pay if your home is damaged or you have another claim. For example: You have a $500 deductible and a tree falls on your house, causing $3,000 in damage. You'll pay $500, and your insurer will pay the remaining $2,500.

The higher your deductible, the more of the repair or claim cost you'll have to take on. That means your out-of-pocket costs will be higher, but you'll have a lower overall rate and vice versa.

Extra Coverage's

These are the extra coverage's you can add.

These are the extra coverage's you can add

Backed-up sump pumps or plumbing systems

Water back-up: This is an optional coverage. Sometimes plumbing/sewer systems or sump pumps can get backed up, which can cause significant damage and an expensive mess. This coverage pays for damage to your home, belongings, and water removal.

Not all insurers offer this coverage.

Other lawsuits and situations

Personal injury: This covers other lawsuits and situations that your liability coverage (which is automatically included) does not cover. The lawsuits and situations covered by personal injury aren’t very common but can be expensive:

  • Libel or slander lawsuits (something you write/say that damages a person's reputation or business, subject to restrictions)
  • False arrest, detention, or imprisonment
  • Lawsuits against you, such as wrongful entry or malicious prosecution
  • Wrongful eviction

Brokers vs. Agents

When shopping for insurance policies, you have two choices: you can either work with an insurance broker (someone who represents a variety of insurance companies), or you can choose to buy directly from a captive insurance agent (someone who represents a single insurance company).

Before choosing an insurance professional, consider these pros and cons.

Brokers - Because a broker is solely focused on your unique needs, he or she can help with comparison-shopping, honing in on the best prices for the coverage you need. They can even advise you on how to best bundle or customize your policies in ways that agents might not be able to do (either because they are restricted in their policy offerings, or simply because they lack the insight into your specific needs).

Brokers work with a variety of insurance companies, they tend to have a broader understanding of companies’ offerings and key benefits. Consider this: having options placed in front of you and explained in detail allows you the opportunity to hear about the newest “bells and whistles,” some of which may be just what you need or were looking for, but simply never asked about. Policies change, and new options are added by carriers all the time.

Independent Agents - Independent insurance agents function identically to insurance brokers in that they represent multiple insurance carriers. The primary difference between brokers and independent agents is that insurance brokerage companies are often larger than independent insurance agencies. However, independent agents and brokers approach the business in the same way, which is that they represent the customer.

Captive Agents - Captive insurance agents represent just one insurance carrier. In essence, they are employees of the carrier. The upside of working with a captive agent is that he or she has exceptionally thorough product knowledge. The downside is that he/she cannot provide access to products or pricing from outside their respective company. For this reason, you must have a high tolerance for carrier-specific terms, since each carrier and its in-house representatives may use language that is tough to compare across several companies that you encounter. Nevertheless, tap into that exceptional product knowledge and get smarter along the way as you search. The surge in online insurance websites offers consumers yet another option to use as part of their selection strategy. It is easy to find an insurance agent online, particularly one from a national insurance provider. Moreover, with 24-7 online access and quick comparison of policies, these web services are convenient, quick and a great way to ballpark quotes and to give you exposure to a wide variety of insurance providers. When you find one that is appealing to you, give them a call or fill out an agent request online.

 


What Kind of Motor Oil Should I Use?

For consumers who are looking for ways to save money, motor oil may seem like a good place to cut some costs. While it’s relatively inexpensive as far as car maintenance goes, using the wrong oil can cause expensive problems in your vehicle. Read on to get answers to your questions about motor oil.

What motor oil do I need for my car?

Because engines vary so widely across makes and models, automakers recommend specific types of motor oil for each vehicle. Variations in viscosity, or oil weight, as well as ingredients will affect your vehicle’s longevity and performance. A standard oil weight of 10w30 means in cold temperatures the oil has a rating of 10, the “w” stands for winter, and once the oil has warmed up it has a rating of 30. The higher the number is, the more viscous the oil is. Engines need a thinner oil when they start-up in cold weather so it can easily coat the engine. As the engine gets hot, the oil becomes thicker, which lubricates the engine better. Specifications for your vehicle’s oil needs can be found in your owner’s manual.

Synthetic oil vs. conventional: which is better?

Not all oil is created equal, so in order to keep your car running properly it’s important you know what you’re getting—and what you need. Some newer cars, especially high-performance vehicles, require synthetic oil. It’s important you check your owner’s manual and find out exactly what you need.

Synthetic oils are processed to withstand extreme temperatures and take longer to break down. Taking a lot of short trips in your vehicle can prevent conventional motor oil from getting warm enough to function as needed. Living in a region with extremely cold winters or hot summers can cause conventional oil to break down faster. Drivers who deal with these conditions could find synthetic oil valuable to the life of their engine.

Remember that if your car uses synthetic oils, you shouldn’t use traditional oil, as it can compromise the longevity and performance of your engine. However, it’s fine to use synthetic oils in an older car that has previously only used conventional oil. It’s important that you read your owner’s manual and know what needs to go into your vehicle.

What makes syntehtic oil different?

From its molecular structure, synthetic oil is built differently than conventional oil. It’s still oil, but it’s been engineered for performance. Molecule size in synthetic oil is controlled with scientific precision. The uniform molecules cause less friction, an important feature in a lubricant. Synthetic oil also is cleaner and runs cleaner, due to refinement processes that remove deposits, and the presence of additives that can help clean the engine.

Between engine performance, environmental impact, durability, cleanliness and the potential for better fuel economy. There’s a lot to love about synthetic oil. However, while synthetic oil is generally considered the best for your car, the way it’s manufactured does make it more expensive.

How often should I change my oil?

Modern motor oil in newer vehicles can last much longer than the traditional rule of thumb “three months or 3,000 miles” interval.  Most cars now fall into an interval of 7,500 or 10,000 miles. Your owner’s manual is the best authority on what your vehicle’s engine needs. Several automakers are now including an oil monitoring system which alerts you when an oil change is needed based on driving conditions.

Buying "cheap" motor oil

You don’t have to spend a fortune on motor oil; there are several ways to save money on motor oil without sacrificing the safety of your vehicle. They include:

  • Shop for oil at a wholesale club or at big-box discounters
  • Buy oil by the case, which usually offers some sort of discount
  • Join a rewards program at an automotive parts retailer, and you can typically earn rewards or get discounts on your future purchases

If you need multiple bottles of oil, it‘s cheaper to buy it in a one-gallon jug, although many people find such a big bottle difficult to handle. (You can always pour it into a smaller container when adding the oil to your vehicle, to keep from spilling it on the engine.)

You may find some great prices online, but look for a seller that offers free shipping. Since motor oil is a heavy liquid, you may find the shipping cost offsets any potential savings.

While we all want to save money, remember that it stops being a bargain the minute it causes damage to your vehicle. Knowing what to look for on the label can save you both time and money and give you peace of mind.

Now you know you have the right oil – but do you have the right car insurance? Learn more about the benefits of Nationwide auto insurance coverage, including auto insurance discounts.

 


I Got a Ticket. Should I go to Traffic School?

The easy way to start with this question is to state that if you have attended traffic school within the past 18 months, you can’t go again. However, I always tell customers that they absolutely should attend traffic school if they are eligible to do so.

There are two reasons for this. First, let’s follow the money. If somebody receives their first ticket, they may think “how bad can it be on my insurance”. It can be very bad. Depending on your insurance company, a first ticket can add anywhere from $80 to $200 to your auto insurance premium every six months. Using the low end of $80 (most companies are closer to the higher end of $200), that’s $480 over the three years that the ticket will be on your driving record. Whether you go to traffic school or not, you still have to pay for the ticket and the costs of traffic schools are pretty cheap these days. Why lose all that money when you have an opportunity to keep the ticket from showing up on your driving record?

The second reason is due to the Proposition 103 good driver discount. Prop 103, which was voted on in 1988 states that all auto insurers in the state of California must abide by certain rules. One of those rules pertains to the 20% good driver discount which all companies writing auto insurance in this state must give to any driver that qualifies.

To qualify, you are allowed one minor violation or one at-fault no-injury accident within the past three years. If you have two or more tickets, a ticket and an at-fault accident, or an at-fault accident with injury within the past three years, you are ineligible for the discount. Also, if you have had a major violation within three years such as a reckless driving ticket or going over 100mph, you do not qualify for the discount. If you have had a DUI within the past 10 years, you cannot receive the good driver discount (it used to be 7 years but legislation sponsored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) lengthened the time period. There can also be no driver’s license suspensions within the past 3 years.

“I only have one ticket so I receive the good driver discount. Why should I go to traffic school”? Again, see reason #1 above. Not only is there a huge cost involved but you also lose some of your cushion. What if I received a ticket and went to traffic school and received another ticket within 18 months? The second ticket will count against you but at least you don’t lose your 20% good driver discount. The second ticket is financially a killer!  A third reason worth mentioning is if you don’t qualify for the good driver discount, you won’t qualify for most preferred driver programs. This means that you will end up paying a lot of money to be in a standard or non-standard program with a standard or non-standard insurance company. In this case, at least stay with a good independent agent that won’t take advantage of you or victimize the unknowing. So in conclusion, if you receive a ticket and can go to traffic school, you should do so!

 


Why Buy Flood Insurance?

No home is completely safe from potential flooding. Flood insurance can be the difference between recovering and being financially devastated. Just one inch of water in a home can cost more than $25,000 in damage—why risk it?

The Cost of Flooding

Flooding can be an emotionally and financially devastating event.  Without flood insurance, most residents have to pay out of pocket or take out loans to repair and replace damaged items.  With flood insurance, you're able to recover faster and more fully.  Use the tool below to see how much flood damage—even from just a few inches of water—could cost you.

Do You Need Flood Insurance?

Here are some important facts to keep in mind:

  • FACT: Homeowners and renters insurance does not typically cover flood damage.
  • FACT: More than 20 percent of flood claims come from properties outside high-risk flood zones.
  • FACT: Flood insurance can pay regardless of whether or not there is a Presidential Disaster Declaration.
  • FACT: Disaster assistance comes in two forms: a U.S. Small Business Administration loan, which must be paid back with interest, or a FEMA disaster grant, which is about $5,000 on average per household.  By comparison, the average flood insurance claim is nearly $30,000 and does not have to be repaid.

It’s easy to see that having flood insurance provides important recovery help.

 

2018


Fireplace Safety Tips for a Cozy Winter Season

As the weather gets colder and your fireplace becomes more than a decorative focal point, be sure it’s up for the task of keeping your family warm and toasty – and safe. Our list will help you keep track of proper maintenance and make sure your fireplace is ready for regular use this winter.

General Fireplace And Chimney Safety 

Have a professional inspect and clean your fireplace and chimney each year before you begin using it for the season. If you’re using a gas or wood fireplace, open the chimney flue prior to starting the fire to let fresh air feed the flames and allow smoke to exit. Close the flue once the fire is put out.
It’s also important to keep the area surrounding the fireplace free from flammable objects. Be extra cautious of this during the holidays. Keep decorations and stockings a safe distance away from a fire and don’t ever use your fireplace to burn Christmas trees or wrapping paper. Pine boughs and paper burn intensely and can lead to a roof or chimney fire.

Gas Fireplace Safety Tips

Gas fireplaces are exceedingly popular for their efficiency and cleaner burning properties. Enjoy them safely by acknowledging the following safety conditions:
Know your clearance zone. Many gas fireplaces have technology that makes it safe to place electronics and décor near the fireplace or on the mantle. However, certain items should never be placed within your fireplace’s clearance zone. These items include paper items like books, newspaper, and magazines; fabrics, like blankets or drapes; and wood.
Proper ventilation is key. Natural gas and carbon monoxide can kill. Make sure your flue and vents are all functioning properly.
Maintain your safety barrier. Whether it’s glass or metal, keep your safety screen in excellent condition. This will prevent flames or burning material from getting out of your fireplace, and keep flammable items from getting in.

Electric Fireplace Safety Tips

Electric fireplaces make it possible to have a fireplace in a location that wouldn’t normally be able to fit one. The flame isn’t real, but that doesn’t mean they are without risk. As a source of heat, an electric fireplace should always be treated with care. In addition to maintain the clearance zone discussed above, observe the following safety tips when using an electric fireplace.
Use proper cords. Many companies do not recommend using extension cords for electric fireplaces. Some will allow grounded, heavy duty cords that are the appropriate gauge and wattage rating. Make sure to follow your manufacturers specific guidelines to ensure your safety.
Plug in to an appropriate socket. An electric fireplace is essentially a forced air heater, and it is subject to the restrictions of a standard household socket, wiring and fuse box. Be sure not to draw more power from your socket than it can handle, else you run the risk of starting a real fire.

Wood-Burning Fireplace Safety Tips

Replaced by more efficient, cleaner and safer options, wood fireplaces are less popular than they have been in the past. However, it’s difficult to deny the ambiance of a crackling fire with real burning wood.
Consider what type of fire you want so that you can select the right type of wood. If the fire is more for aesthetics, lighter wood or a synthetic log are good choices. If your fireplace being used for heat, oak or ash may be a better fit, since they’re heavier and burn hotter.
• Avoid using wood from recently cut trees. They contain high levels of moisture, which can lead to more smoke and deposits forming inside the chimney.
• Synthetic logs can burn unevenly, so be careful when using them. Even though they’re not real wood, the flue should still be open for proper ventilation as they still produce carbon monoxide.
• Wood should be seasoned and dry – appear darker, have cracks at the ends, and will sound hollow when hit against another piece of wood.
• Have a metal container handy when removing and storing hot ashes. Store it outside at a safe distance from your home, since embers and ashes can stay hot for awhile.
• Start your fire with newspaper, dry kindling or organic fire starters. Never use gasoline, kerosene or charcoal starter.
• Use a stainless steel liner to help keep the fire and ashes contained.
• Install heat-proof glass doors to keep live embers from escaping the fireplace.
• Look for signs of creosote and soot buildup. Creosote is a dark substance that can accumulate if wood isn’t burning completely. It’s a highly flammable fuel and can burn at about 2000°F. Soot, which can also be flammable, is softer than creosote. Both should be cleaned out of the chimney regularly.
With these tips, you can help ensure that a cozy fire will be a safe and welcome addition to a chilly winter season.


Flood Insurance vs. Home Insurance: Are you Covered?

Your home may be the single largest asset in your life and ensuring you have the right insurance coverage to protect this important investment may make the difference between minor disruptions and devastating financial losses. A standard homeowner’s policy will provide basic coverage and may reimburse your losses from several causes, such as fire, theft, and water damage due to broken pipes but it won’t pay for flood damage.

If your home is in a region that is susceptible to water damage from sources such as melting snow, overflowing of nearby bodies of water, heavy rains, or even wildfires, it may be a prudent decision to add an extra layer of protection in the form of flood insurance offered through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

Understanding the differences between home insurance and flood insurance can be confusing; we’re here to help simplify the comparison so you can make sure you have the right coverage for your specific situation. Give us a call today!


How to Prevent the Spread of Kids’ Germs

Schools, playgrounds and childcare facilities are full of energy and fun—but they’re also full of kids’ germs. Any place where lots of kids come in contact with one another is likely to have a high level of illnesses. You can’t shield your child from every cold that’s going around town. But you can do your best to fight sniffles, sore throats and tummy-aches by following these seven germ prevention tips.

How to limit exposure to germs

1. Choose facilities wisely

It’s important to review the health and safety guidelines of any school or daycare before enrolling your child. Be sure kids are encouraged to wash their hands with soap and warm water throughout the day, especially before and after playing outside or eating food. Ask the staff how frequently they sanitize tables and toys. Make sure the area where sick kids rest is away from the rest of the group, and find out whether or not they tell all the other parents when a child is sent home sick.

2. Ask about vaccinations

Most states require childcare facilities to keep written records of kids’ vaccinations, so ask yours if it has these documents. Also, ask if your daycare accepts children who are on “catch-up” immunization schedules—these kids could potentially transmit illnesses to younger children who have not yet reached the vaccination age.

3. Vocalize your concerns

If anything ever seems amiss at school or daycare, address your concerns with the supervisors and explain your expectations for cleanliness. If the facility can’t change its policies, consider choosing an alternative.

4. Keep a clean home

You expect your daycare provider or school staff to keep things spic and span, right? So make sure you do the same at your own home. Regularly sanitize surfaces and frequently touched areas like doorknobs and light switches. Childproofing your home can also help avoid bumps and bruises that can become infected.

5. Keep hands clean

Washing your hands is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of germs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Teach children to wash their hands with warm water and soap for at least as long as it takes to sing the ABC song.

Hand sanitizer is another good way to prevent germs, but be sure you sanitize safely! Only place a small amount of sanitizer in your child’s hands and have them rub until dry. Take the following precautions to avoid alcohol poisoning when using hand sanitizer:

·         Tell children not to put their hands in their mouth after using sanitizer

·         Don’t use hand sanitizer before eating

·         Keep sanitizer away from children so that it isn’t used without adult supervision

·         Buy plain sanitizer that isn’t fruity or tempting to taste

·         Consider sanitizers that are not alcohol-based.

Also show children how to cover coughs and sneeze into the crook of their elbows. While you’re at it, remind them not to use their sleeve to wipe anything, since it could spread those freshly-sneezed germs.

6. Call in sick

According to the CDC, kids shouldn’t go to school or daycare with any of these symptoms: vomiting, fever above 100°F, sore throat, white spots in the back of the throat, signs of pink eye or severe phlegm-producing cough. The same goes for grown-ups, too. Set a good example and stay home when you’re sick.

7. Don’t over-stress

Remember that you can’t protect your kid from everything. And in fact, a little bacteria may actually be good for kids; the National Institutes of Health suggests that exposure to germs may ultimately help children build stronger immune systems.

How to prevent the spread of germs when kids are sick

If your child is already sick, you’ll want to step up your germ-fighting efforts to prevent you or a sibling from becoming sick. Here are some additional things you can do:

·         Avoid sharing meals with any children that are sick.

·         Up your disinfecting efforts, focusing on any surfaces that the sick child often uses.

·         Do laundry more frequently, especially bedding and towels.

·         If a sick child has siblings, do your best to reduce the amount of contact they have. This includes the sharing of items, such as to or books.

There’s no fool-proof way to prevent germs, but following the above tips can go a long way in helping your kids stay happy and healthy


26 Most Common Renovation Mistakes to Avoid

1. Setting an unrealistic budget. Renovations invariably cost more than expected. Build in an extra 20% to your budget to be better prepared for any surprises.
2. Not complementing the original architectural style. Additions don’t need to be the same style as the original structure. However, they do need to complement it to help with resale value and to look and feel great while you’re living in them.
3. Sacrificing function for form. Think about how you’ll actually live in the space. That affects such details as door, window and outlet placement. It can also determine traffic patterns throughout the home.
4. Being too trendy. Fresh, updated looks are great, but consider resale value, too. Trends are short-lived, while good design lasts forever. Don’t hesitate to consult a designer if you have questions.
5. Selecting appliances last. Choose your appliances first to help make sure the overall design accommodates the items you really want. But wait to buy them until you’re ready to have them installed.
6. Buying materials too early. Wait to buy the perfect appliances, flooring and other materials until the project plans are finalized and the project is far enough along for measurements to be accurate. Otherwise, you risk buying the wrong quantities of materials or ordering appliances that won’t fit.
7. Not ordering extra flooring. Order enough material to complete the job, plus 20% to account for installation wastage and defects.
8. Focusing on appearance. Be sure to address any structural or safety issues, such as updating the electrical system or ensuring foundations and subflooring are sound, so you don’t have to break through your new, beautiful finishes to fix potential problems later.
9. Not considering workflow. This is particularly important in kitchens. Consider the “work triangle” between refrigerator, sink and stove to ensure you enjoy the functionality of the new design and can use the space efficiently.
10. Buying cheap materials. Select durable, high-quality materials that you won’t need to replace within in a few years. Building materials aren’t the place to economize.
11. Updating the wrong things. Focus on elements that add long-term value to your home, such as storage and elements that aren’t just cosmetic. For example, installing an expensive wall treatment but skimping on flooring may not be the best option.
12. Ignoring the details. Consider the specific features that can make the renovation work for you. Although pantry pullouts, toe-kick storage and similar features that make your kitchen more efficient are things you can add later, this could cause potential damage to the materials you’ve already updated. Installing them during your current home renovation can save you time and money.
13. Choosing contractors on a whim. Don’t rush your decision on hiring a contractor. Interview multiple contractors and reach out to their references and previous clients. Make sure each contractor understands what you want. Don’t hesitate to ask them questions about materials, layout and the construction process. Don’t select your contractor based on price alone; compare price quotes and references, and make sure you can work easily with them.
14. Measuring incorrectly. Especially for DIYers, the adage “measure twice but cut once” can save countless delays and money. Being off even a fraction of an inch can have big repercussions, causing poor fits and reordered materials.
15. Not consulting professionals. Consulting architects or designers to fine-tune your plans is invaluable in terms of spotting issues you may have overlooked. These professionals can help make your plans more functional and efficient.
16. Ignoring lighting. A lighting specialist can help you design a lighting plan to place and size your combinations of general, task, accent and smart lighting. This creates a well-lit, welcoming and usable environment.
17. Impulse buying. Consider the entire project — the floor, wall color, cabinetry, lights and other elements — and how these pieces all work together to create a cohesive look.
18. Small doorways and halls. Check your plans to ensure that doorways and halls are wide enough to allow appliances and furniture to pass through easily.
19. Skimping on window quality. Having high-quality windows with the right thermal protection for your climate can keep your home comfortable in every season. Skimping here can have a direct impact on utility bills and overall contentment in your home.
20. Not doing the prep work. Doing a project right the first time requires preparing properly, whether that means re-taping, spackling and priming walls before painting or doing structural work before re-flooring. Doing it now saves time and money later.
21. Using the wrong paint. When choosing paint finishes, you may need a different finish in each room, depending on what the room will be used for or exposed to. Matte finishes usually are used for ceilings to make them seem to recede. Satin finishes work well for walls to reflect some light. People typically use semi- or high-gloss for trim for easy cleaning.
22. Neglecting curb appeal. Landscaping is the first thing you, your guests or even potential buyers see when they arrive, and it can often set an expectation of what your home looks like inside. Sprucing up the yard, even on a budget, can have an instant and positive effect on how you and others view your home.
23. Overbuilding. Your finished home remodel should complement your neighborhood. Homes that are significantly different from neighboring homes can look awkward and may not offer the return on investment that you were anticipating.
24. Unrealistic expectations. Remodeling can be messy, noisy and inconvenient even in the best circumstances. Do some research before you begin work so you can better understand what to expect before, during and after your home renovation.
25. Working without a permit. If you have a contractor, he or she will likely get any necessary building permits. However, to make sure there are no issues later, you should check with your county or local municipal building department to determine whether a permit is needed for your specific project. Unpermitted projects are often torn down. If you ever sell your home, the resale value or the actual sale itself may be affected.
26. Underestimating the safety risks. Neglecting your own safety will not only impede your project, but it can also cause you serious physical harm. Always wear protective clothing such as work boots, safety goggles, hearing protection and gloves when working. Keep a first aid kit handy.

There are many things to consider when renovating or adding on to your home, and these changes can often necessitate some adjustments to your homeowners insurance policy. Be sure to contact your agent for more details


3 Ways to Save on Teen Car Insurance
For parents, having a teen driver in the house can be cause for mixed emotions. On the one hand there’s the added freedom of having another driver who can run errands and no longer needs to be driven to school or extracurricular activities.

On the flip side, many parents worry about the extra expense of adding a teenager to the insurance policy, as well as the accompanying expenses of gas and perhaps even an additional car.

Several factors affect how much the cost of insurance increases when a teen driver is added, including geography and gender. Insuring teen male drivers is more expensive than females, and certain areas are simply more expensive than others. While you can’t do much to change those two factors, there are many ways for parents to cut insurance costs. The good news is that, in addition to improving the bottom line, these options could help your teen become a better driver or even become more conscientious about his or her grades.

 

Here are three things you can do right now to start saving money on your teenager’s auto insurance.

1. Look into a good student discount
The grades your teen earns can lower the amount of insurance you have to pay. This is something you may have to ask for, so if your student driver is earning a minimum of a B average, contact your insurance agent. Before you call, make sure you have proof of the student’s academic prowess. It may be in the form of a report card or a form signed by a school administrator to verify those grades. The discount is also valid for homeschooled teens, who will need to provide results from a standardized test (PSAT, SAT, ACT, etc.) and must be in the top 20 percent of the student scores nationwide. Even better news – this discount continues when your driver goes to college and it’s offered up to the age of 24. Click here to learn more about getting a good-student discount.
2. Consider telematics
Telematics are electronics that record and report on a driver’s habits. That information can be used in many ways; it allows insurance companies to reward drivers for good behavior, and it also lets drivers (or their parents) receive feedback on their driving, which can help them make better decisions behind the wheel. Nationwide’s program SmartRide gives drivers an automatic 5 percent break on the teen’s insurance just for signing up, then offers additional discounts – as much as 40 percent – based on a driver’s habits. They provide a device that is easily installed, tracking four factors: hard braking, fast acceleration, miles driven and nighttime miles.
3. Don’t buy new
While most teens dream of a shiny new car to begin driving, it’s not the best financial move. The reason teens cost more to insure is these inexperienced drivers tend to have more accidents, so buying a new car is going to mean higher repair costs if they have a fender bender. Buying an older car that has good safety ratings won’t just mean lower repair costs and lower monthly car payments, it will cost less to insure.

Having the right car insurance is extremely important, even more so for a young driver. Find out how Nationwide can help you save money on teen car insurance while keeping you covered.


10 RV Camping Tips to Ensure a Great Vacation
A growing number of Americans will pack up their recreational vehicles and hit the road this year. Ownership of RVs has reached record highs, with 8.9 million households owning an RV. RV owners will trek across the U.S., visiting some of the 16,000 public and privately owned campgrounds that speckle the map. That’s sure to make a few places a little crowded, which is why a refresher on RV etiquette can benefit everyone. No matter where an RV parks for the day, it’s important to be a good neighbor and consider those in nearby sites, says Dan Wulfman, the founder of Tracks & Trails, a Colorado-based company that plans camping trips for RV travelers. “RV etiquette is really important and not everyone gets that memo,” he says. “How you behave can really make or break your vacation, and the vacation of those around you.”

Here’s a list of RV camping tips to ensure every RV traveler is a good neighbor:
 

1. Don’t hibernate. A campground or an RV park is like a temporary community, Wulfman says, so everyone should make an effort to be friendly to their neighbors. “Say hello to your neighbors and learn a little about them,” he says. “You don’t have to spend your vacation with them, but being friendly goes a long way to make everyone feel more at home at a campground. ” This way, if a problem arises both people feel comfortable talking about it.

2. Respect campsite boundaries. There aren’t any walls or fences that maintain a physical boundary for each RV party, but one does exist, Wulfman says. “It’s important to respect everyone’s space,” he says. “In other words, don’t cut through someone’s outdoor living room to go to the bathroom. If you’re traveling with children, remind them of this rule, too.”

3. Mind your garbage. From paper plates to empty plastic bottles, garbage will collect. While it’s tempting to toss garbage into the nightly campfire, it breaks RV etiquette. Burning garbage creates an awful smell that neighbors have to endure. Plastic in particular gives off a foul odor, and can be unhealthy for anyone who inhales it. Rather than burning garbage, bag it and move it to approved receptacles. RV owners should also make sure wastewater is handled properly, Wulfman says. Check tanks and hoses to make sure nothing leaks on the ground and gives off a bad odor.

4. Keep it down. RVs make a lot of noise. From generators to outdoor entertainment centers, an RV can create a lot of racket. Be mindful of the noise, Wulfman says. “Yes, you’re on vacation, but that doesn’t mean the family next to you wants to hear your generator running at 3 a.m. or a kid’s movie blaring on an outdoor television,” he explains. “Be aware of the noise you create, and try to keep it to a minimum. ”This quiet rule applies to people, too, Wulfman says. It’s okay to stay up late and enjoy a campfire with kids, just be respectful to the neighbors at the same time. Most places have “quiet hours” that you should respect.

5. Be selective in campground choices. Unfortunately, not every RV party follows common etiquette. To increase the likelihood of having respectful neighbors, campground selection is important, Wulfman says. “Campgrounds that are in town are usually frequented by locals that are there to party, so it’s always best to travel a little outside of a city,” he says. “By putting in a few extra miles, you’ll probably be able to find a quieter site with fewer people.” This is where proper planning comes into play, Wulfman says. It’s best to have a game plan for overnight stays rather than pulling into the first campground or RV park that’s on the way.

6. Keep your pets under control. Don’t let your pets become a nuisance to other campers. If you plan on bringing your furry friend, make sure they are on a leash and that you pick up after then.

7. Check out on time.  Similar to hotels, RV parks and campgrounds usually have set check out times. Plan to leave on time so you avoid late fees and don’t delay other campers. If you do need a check out time extension, make sure to request it as early as possible.

8. Leave your site clean. As check out time approaches, try to clean up any excess food or trash from your campsite. You appreciate a clean location, and so will the family that comes after you.

9. Observe speed limits. To ensure everyone’s safety, always drive carefully and under the campground speed limits. This can help you avoid accidents with pedestrians and other RVs alike. If you do happen to damage your RV in an accident, damages can be expensive. Make sure you’re covered before your trip with RV and camper insurance from Nationwide. With dependable coverage and potential discounts, it’s easy to find the right policy for you.

10. Watch out for each other. Keeping a watchful eye on you and your neighbor’s belongings can go a long way to fostering a safe campground environment. As more people crisscross the nation in RVs, it’s increasingly important to respect the boundaries of others. Being a good RV neighbor isn’t difficult; it just requires consideration of others, which sometimes gets lost during the relaxed nature of vacations.

And, of course, not having everything you need during your RV travels can also make or break your vacation. Use this pre-travel RV checklist to make the process easier.


25 Things You Didn't Know You Could Put in the Dishwasher

Along with dishes, there are many other super-dirty things that your dishwasher will clean and shine. Your dishwasher can do so much more than wash dishes. This super-hot washing machine can clean, sanitize and deodorize anything that won't melt in high -- typically 130-170 degrees -- temperatures.

If you're not sure if a dirty item likes it hot, place it on the top rack, start the dishwasher, and check mid-cycle. Of course, let the steam clear before sticking your face in the cavity to check.
Here are 25 super-dirty things that your dishwasher will clean and shine.
 

  1. Shoes: If you can wear the shoes in rain – rubber boots, flip-flops, pool shoes -- you can pop them into the dishwasher for a good scrubbing. Make sure to remove liners and orthopedic inserts.
  2. Baseball Hats: Hats keep their shape when you place them on the top rack for cleaning and deodorizing. Put a small cup of white vinegar on the bottom rack for extra deodorizing power.
  3. Hairbrushes and Combs: Remove hair and place plastic combs and brushes in the cutlery tray and wash. Don't put products with wood handles in the dishwasher: Wood doesn't like hot water scrubbings.
  4. Toys: Metal and plastic toys will sparkle after going through a dishwasher cycle. Place in the cutlery tray or a mesh bag, first.
  5. Vent Covers and Grilles: When they become filthy with dust and grime, place metal covers and grilles on the bottom rack of the dishwasher. Grooves will shine.
  6. Cup Holders: When they become encrusted with spilled coffee and soda, pop cup holders into the dishwasher for a thorough cleaning.
  7. Computer Keyboards: Proceed at your own risk, because placing computer keyboards in the dishwasher sounds risky to us. But some tech geeks swear it works. Test with an old keyboard you can do without.
  8. Kitchen Brushes: After slopping sauce on ribs, clean and sanitize basting brushes in the dishwasher.
  9. Scrub Brushes: Let your dishwasher scrub your scrub and bottle brushes.
  10. Hub Caps: To make them really shine, place in dishwasher along with a cup of white vinegar. If you want to clean lug nuts, too, place them in a mesh bag first.
  11. Window Screens: Clean screens will let more sun shine through to warm your home in winter and cut energy costs. If they fit, pop them in the dishwasher.
  12. Light Fixture Covers: Place glass and plastic fixture covers in the dishwasher on the gentle cycle. Dead bugs, grime and dust will disappear.
  13. Switch Plates and Outlet Covers: Dust typically covers the backsides of switch plates and outlet covers, which doesn't help allergy sufferers. Unscrew and place plates and covers in the dishwasher, which will clean and sanitize them.
  14. Stove Knobs: Pop off and place in dishwasher, which quickly will remove grease and grime.
  15. Potatoes and Root Vegetables: When you harvest potatoes, beets and turnips from your garden, place them in the top rack and run through a short dishwasher cycle without soap. To cook same veggies, wrap tightly in aluminum foil, and wash again.
  16. Refrigerator Shelves and Drawers: Save time cleaning the fridge by placing glass and plastic shelves and drawers in the dishwasher. Say goodbye to sticky messes.
  17. Cabinet Hardware: Your spring cleaning should include thoroughly cleaning cabinet pulls and knobs. If you're dirt obsessed, place them in a mesh bag or in the cutlery tray, and send through the wash cycle.
  18. Soap and Toothbrush Holders: Gather all holders, and let your dishwasher scrub off caked on toothpaste and dish detergent.
  19. Faux Flowers: They look even more faux when covered with dust. Place plastic flowers on the dishwasher's top rack, and press the short cycle button.
  20. Plastic Broom Heads and Brushes: Remove clumps of hair and dust that could clog the drain, then run through the dishwasher.
  21. Desk Accessories: Pen and pencil cups, sticky note holders, and in-out trays get dirty and dusty. Clean plastic accessories in the dishwasher.
  22. Makeup Brushes: Regularly sanitize these brushes that touch your eyes and face. Place them in the cutlery tray, and let the dishwasher blast away dried makeup and dust.
  23. Trash Can Lids: If they fit, place those gross-smelling lids in the dishwasher. They'll look and smell better after going through a complete cycle.
  24. Garden Tools: Garden tools can spread fungal infections from plant to plant. To sanitize, clean weeders, shears and trowels in the dishwasher. Rinse off soil, first.
  25. Sporting Equipment: Place plastic shin guards, balls and helmets in the dishwasher for cleaning, sanitizing and deodorizing.

Cinco de Mayo Safety Tips

Cinco de Mayo

Happy Cinco de Mayo! If you’re celebrating this fun and festive holiday (which, by the way, is NOT the Mexican Independence Day), good for you! However, as your insurance agent, we would be remiss if we did not provide you with some Cinco de Mayo safety tips. The celebration of many holidays involves partaking in spirits (i.e., alcoholic beverages), and when people don’t plan ahead or behave responsibly, they can ruin the fun for everyone. Enjoy the celebration but PLEASE be safe!

Here are our Cinco de Mayo Safety Tips:

1. Obey the Law

You put yourself – and others around you – in jeopardy when you fail to obey the law. You risk major trouble for underage drinking, as well as a DUI – both of which can definitely affect your future plans, not to mention the lives you endanger when you get behind the wheel after drinking. So if you’re under 21, don’t drink. Stay home and have some good clean fun with family and friends. Enjoy some Mexican food and virgin margaritas, listen to music and play games.

If you’re over 21 and plan to drink for Cinco de Mayo, read on.

2. Plan Ahead

As the saying goes, failing to plan is planning to fail. If you know you are going to be out drinking tonight, have a plan of action for getting home: make sure your phone has the numbers programmed for a taxi cab, Lyft, or Uber; or find a trusted friend to be your designated driver.

3. Protect your Friends

Do not, under any circumstances, let your friends drive drunk. Keep your wits about you enough to recognize if someone you’re with is about to make the poor choice to get behind the wheel. Take their keys and do not return them. Call a cab, Lyft, or Uber and make sure your friends get home safely. You’ll never regret being the responsible one and looking out for your friends, but you might regret not doing so.

4. Report other Drunk Drivers

How to spot a drunk driver:

MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) provided this list of signs to look out for that may indicate someone is driving drunk:

  • Quick acceleration or deceleration
  • Tailgating  
  • Weaving or zig-zagging across the road
  • Driving anywhere other than on a road designated for vehicles 
  • Almost striking an object, curb, or vehicle
  • Stopping without cause or erratic braking   
  • Drifting in and out of traffic lanes
  • Signaling that is inconsistent with driving actions   
  • Slow response to traffic signals
  • Straddling the center lane marker    
  • Driving with headlights off at night
  • Driving slower than 10 mph below the speed limit   
  • Swerving  
  • Driving into opposing traffic on the wrong side of the road  
  • Turning abruptly or illegally

What to do if you see someone you suspect may be driving drunk:

1st - Stay as far away from the other vehicle as possible.

2nd - Do not try to pass the vehicle or signal the driver to pull over. Doing so could result in a collision.

3rd - Take notice of the license plate number along with details of the vehicle including make, model and color. However, make sure you don’t compromise your own safety trying to obtain this information.

4th - Pull over and call 911. Give the exact location of the vehicle, including the name of the road or cross streets and the direction the vehicle is traveling. Give a complete description of the vehicle and the manner in which the vehicle is being driven.

(source: MADD.org)

Please stay safe and happy Cinco de Mayo!


How to Plan the Perfect Stay at Home Vacation

Stay at Home Vacation

April 25, 2018

Airfares are rising and airport security lines are getting longer, so why not plan a hassle-free “staycation” this year? You’ll save time and money and, if you plan it right, you’ll feel more relaxed when it’s time to go back to work.

The key to the perfect staycation, experts say, is to treat it like an out-of-town vacation: Do your research ahead of time, plan your activities and count down to the big day when you start the festivities.

“Media professional, Karen Gadawski, agrees that the best staycations should be planned ahead and scheduled as if they were out-of-town vacations. “Have things done beforehand so that during vacation you aren’t thinking about everyday chores like doing laundry,” she says.

For the budget-minded, she says, it’s much easier to find discounts and to save passes for nearby entertainment venues you‘re familiar with than to shell out for high-priced places out of town.

Here Lowe and Gadawski offer seven tips on how to plan the perfect staycation:

1. Do your research

Visit your city’s convention and visitor’s bureau website.. There you will find a blog, calendar of events and coupons for some local attractions you might not have even thought about visiting, Lowe says.
Also, check the websites of your local community center, library and government. Look for festivals, free events and concerts. This will give you some idea of when you want to take your staycation and give you some dates to put on your calendar, Lowe says.

2. Create excitement

Counting down to your vacation is important, Gadawski says. Put the dates in the family calendar and talk about how it’s two weeks and then a week before vacation time. Then start counting down the days.
Get everyone involved in planning the itinerary. If you’re looking for places to go, consider whether there are parks you haven’t visited because they are a 30 minute or an hour’s drive away. Research national parks that are within a two-hour drive from your house.
When you wake up each morning of your staycation, you should know what you plan to do that day. Whether you are travelling or staycationing, you should plan activities with your children’s ages in mind. Check out our family travel guide for tips on organizing the best vacation for every age group.

3. Look for local package deals

Many museums and minor league sports teams offer package deals that include tickets and a one-night hotel stay, Lowe says. If you find one of these packages, take advantage of spending a night in a hotel with a swimming pool and plan to visit the zoo or children’s museum in the morning.

4. Check in for one night

If you want to spend one night in a hotel with a swimming pool, look online for discount rates. If you are local, you’ll have an easier time determining which hotels are being offered on travel sites, Lowe says. You can also call the front desk and ask for their best deal. If you are willing to stay midweek, she says, you can probably get a good deal, especially if you call close to the day you want to book.

5. Escape to the movies

Look for activities that you wouldn’t normally do or be able to take advantage of if you weren’t on vacation. For instance, many movie theaters offer Tuesday or Wednesday morning free or cheap matinee showings. Lowe suggests getting to the theater early because it will fill up fast. Drive-in movies are also a fun alternative. Or allow each family member to pick a movie to rent for each night of vacation.

6. Make it special

Shaking up your normal routine is essential to a staycation. For instance, Gadawski says, play dates aren’t allowed during staycations because it’s all about family time. In the evenings she plans movie nights, game nights and even a giant indoor sleep over in the family room.
Themed food and music can also make things festive, Lowe says. Grill burgers and hotdogs and play some 1950s songs during dinner, or create a make-it-yourself taco bar in your kitchen and play Mexican music.

7. Don’t plan every minute

Everyone needs some downtime during vacation so be careful not to plan every minute of your time off, Lowe says. If you do feel like you need to have a packed agenda, consider doing a shorter staycation of two or three a days.

But if want to have a vacation where everyone can relax and sleep in each morning, Lowe adds, pace yourself. Get out of the house each day, and plan family activities each night.

Planning a staycation can save time and money, but traveling doesn’t have to break the bank. If getting out of town is a must, learn how you can find great deals and travel on a budget.


Spring Has Sprung and It's Time to Start Thinking About BBQing

The calendar says it is spring!  Whether or not the thermometer agrees where you live, it is never too early to start grilling, and practicing some new recipes for your big summer parties.

But, before you get started cooking on your gas grill, charcoal grill or smoker, follow these simple steps below. Getting your grill in tip-top condition now will save you time and hassles later and keep you grilling the tastiest foods ever!

For Gas Models:

Check for leaks! Whenever changing or disconnecting an LP tank, perform a leak check when the tank is reconnected.   A simple soapy water solution applied to the connection is all you need.  With the control knobs off, turn on the tank. If bubbles form, DO NOT USE THE GRILL!  There is a gas leak. Try a different tank!

Brush the burner tubes!
Using a clean stainless steel brush, brush across the portholes to clear all oxidation and debris from the ports.  Do not brush lengthwise, as that may push more into the holes.  Blocked portholes can cause a back flash fire.

Check the cookbox!
Excess grease can collect on the sides of the cookbox over time.  Grease is flammable!   Use a plastic scraper to push all grease into the bottom tray (grease tray).

Clean out the bottom tray (grea