What You Need to Know About Your Homeowners Insurance Policy

If you want to protect yourself and your house from potential unexpected disasters, you need homeowners insurance. In the event of a storm, gas explosion, vehicle accident, or flood, your house will be safeguarded against possible damage costs if you have a valid homeowners insurance policy with you. Many people fear that home insurance may be too expensive for them, however, with careful planning and enough research you could find very affordable homeowners insurance policies in Arizona.

If you are totally new to the home insurance industry, you should first do some research online to learn basic knowledge about home insurance. Although not legally required by law, you should get homeowners insurance.

If you want to save on your policy premium, you should consider following some tips to help keep your premium low:

Securing your home with a good locking system is one of the most effective ways to help lower your premium. If you have a house equipped with a state-of-the-art security camera system and secure deadlocks, your homeowners insurance premium will lower. Another thing you could do to lower your insurance premium is to upgrade your plumbing. Water damage is the most dominant reason for home insurance claims, therefore, if you could lower your risk of water damage, you will lower your insurance premium accordingly.

We all know that homeowners insurance does cover theft, however, no one actually wants to go through the experience. Even though theft is very common, it is totally possible to prevent theft from happening.

1. Know Your Neighbors Well

Living in a safe neighborhood could decrease theft rate drastically. When you have trustworthy and caring neighbors, they can look after your property while you are away.

2. Secure Your Home With the Latest Technology

Installing a state-of-the-art security camera system may not be enough. You also need a good locking system. Deadbolts and window locks are a must.

3. Make Your Home Look Occupied When You are Away

Thieves don’t want to get into trouble by breaking into an occupied home, so they will pass on your house if it looks like there is someone inside. Light timers and TV timers will help you make your vacant home appear occupied.

4. Hide Your Precious Stuffs

Do not put your high-value stuffs on display for every passerby to see. You should not let the whole world know that you have a home full of valuable assets.

5. Do Not Let the World Know You Will be Away

Many people use social media to update their status and location in real time. However, social media is also the place for thieves and stalkers to get information about their target. You can inform your friends and relatives about your upcoming trip by calling them, emailing them or texting them. You can always brag about your trip after you return home.

If you haven’t got homeowners insurance to protect your home, it is time to do so. Contact any one of our many insurance agents today and we will help you get the best premium possible.

Insurance Agents in Arizona Talk About Break-ins

Arizona homeowners are being confronted with a rise in property crimes not just in their homes, but in their cars and storage areas. Crime statistics for 2010 show that “the city property crime rate in Phoenix was higher than the national property crime rate average by 35.05%.” Based on these and other statistics, given that the total burglary reports for Phoenix in 2010 amounted to 15,626, and the projected burglary rate for Phoenix in 2013 is 17,080. Your insurance agents want to help you make sure that your property doesn’t become part of these statistics.

To start with, here is an interesting infographic that covers many of the basic facts and statistics regarding residential break-ins. Since this information was compiled by a security system provider, it naturally promotes the use of home alarms. A security system is an important component of an overall plan, but they are too often defeated by the owners themselves. Nothing will substitute for awareness. Set the alarm for the day when you’re at work, not only at night.

It’s not just that the number of break-ins is increasing, but the types of break-ins have changed. Since more people are using garage door openers with remotes in cars, a burglar will break into a car in the driveway in order to get the remote. That’s often enough to gain entry into the house, as many residents neglect to lock the doors between the house and the garage. Remove remotes from cars parked outside. Lock your car each time you leave it.

Vacant houses are a burglar magnet because it’s so easy to tell that they’re unoccupied. An overgrown yard, shuttered windows, no cars in front, unused trash cans that are never put on the curb, notices or flyers flapping on the doors— all these signs are invitations to break in or vandalize. If a tenant can’t be found immediately, hire a property manager to check the premises daily.

It’s also become common for burglars to pose as work crews. They will drive around hauling trailers with yard equipment, shovels, pvc pipes, or other tools that give them the appearance of being on a job. It’s the most natural thing in the world to see a man walking around a house with a shovel on his shoulder, carefully examining landscaping or the foundation, and to assume he’s from a nearby nursery or a foundation repair company. What he’s actually doing, however, is looking for security wires, a vulnerable door, or a partially hidden window. Know what’s going on in your neighborhood. Look for company signage on any work trucks.

Finally, one of the most depressing trends in break-ins is the number of them that occur during summer vacation or school holidays. Unsupervised teens have been known to break into neighbors’ homes for a number of reasons:

(1) They’re familiar with the area; they know who goes to work during the day or who is away on vacation. They know who has the expensive toys and who does not have a dog or a security system.

(2) They’re bored, looking for some excitement, or trying to build up a reputation.

(3) They don’t like certain neighbors and want to exact a little revenge for a perceived wrong.

Get to know your neighbors. Take extra precautions during school breaks.  

Tips Insurance Agents Will Give You to Protect Your Home from Damage

Although home insurance will provide coverage for your home in case of a disaster, the best way to avoid home damage is to engage in preventative measures. Many disasters, natural and artificial, may be avoided by making some extra effort. By taking some tips from insurance agents, implementing these measures should be possible in no time at all.

The first step is to investigate the most frequently occurring natural disasters in your area. Different parts of Arizona will tend to suffer from higher rates of specific disasters than others. For example, some areas will be more prone to tornadoes and floods while others will have a high rate of earthquakes. In some cases it is possible to purchase specialist insurance which only covers one type of disaster or incident. Take the time to meet with local insurance agents for some tips.

Evaluate which type of insurance is right for you when meeting with insurance agents. It is important to understand that a typical home insurance policy does not cover natural disasters. According to the Arizona Department of Insurance:

The broad policy covers all the perils covered by the basic plus: building collapse; freezing or accidental discharge of water, or steam from within plumbing, heating, or air conditioning systems and domestic appliances; falling objects; weight of ice, snow, or sleet; and rupture or bursting of steam or hot water heating systems. The special policy covers dwellings for “all risks” except certain specified perils, such as earthquake and flood, and coverage for damage to personal property caused by any of the perils covered by a basic or broad policy. For an additional premium, a special endorsement usually can be added to extend the special policy to provide “all risk” coverage on personal property that is normally limited or excluded from the policy.

There is even a comprehensive package which is rarely sold today that covers almost any possible damage to your home that is imaginable. Deciding which insurance policy is right for you should be influenced by the overall value of your home as well as which accidents or disasters you feel are most likely.

Make changes to your home that will help prevent damage from occurring in the first place. Some good examples of these changes may include installing new piping, roofing, or a lightning rod. These home improvements can prevent damage from leaking pipes, mold, and even fire. Some other examples of preventative measures include reinforcing your home’s foundation to help resist a tornado or installing fire resistant insulation.

Many insurance agents will agree to give you a discount on home insurance for installing such precautions in your home. Be sure to mention all of these facts when signing up for insurance. Some agents will also agree to give you a discount based on other factors such as a high credit score or a claim-free history. Buying insurance can be challenging, but with the right know how, getting a discount should be achievable.

Arizona Insurance Agents Show You How to Prevent Water Damage to Your Home

Water damage is a primary cause for claims against homeowners insurance in Arizona. Even a paid claim cannot adequately compensate you for the time and aggravation of dealing with water damage, so we want to help you avoid this issue.

Let’s start by addressing potential water damage to the exterior of your home, or your neighbor’s home- during rain season.

The major factor in avoiding exterior water issues is the slope of the ground surrounding your house. Six inches in slope for every 10 feet, or a grade of -2% to -5% is considered ideal for drainage, but you must make sure your excess water does not drain into your neighbors’ yards.

Another factor affecting drainage is the amount of concrete around your house in the form of driveways or patios. Water that hits concrete has got to drain off somewhere, so you need to control that flow. A good solution may be to replace some of that concrete with pavers. Lay drainage pipes underneath the pavers, or install French drains. Always consult with a licensed contractor to make sure your renovations meet codes.

See that your roof is in good shape. An inspection every two to four years is adequate unless there has been severe weather, in which case you should have someone look at it right away. Damaged shingles or missing flashing indicates the need for repairs. Go up to the attic during the day to look for spots of daylight coming through the roof. Water spots on room ceilings or walls call for an immediate roof inspection.

Finally, see that your home is equipped with gutters and downspouts. Not only do they safely channel excess rainwater, they protect landscaping and add aesthetic appeal.

Now let’s look at how to head off interior water damage.

1. Monitor water use. This sounds elementary until you realize that a significant amount of water damage is caused by overflowing tubs, toilets and sinks. Make sure that sinks are equipped with overflow drains. Always supervise children in the bathroom and kitchen.

2. Fix malfunctioning appliances immediately. A constantly running toilet is a disaster waiting to happen, and when it finally gives, it will do so in the middle of the night. Water heaters that are 10 years old or older should be replaced. Not only will you head off a sudden 50 gallon deluge, you will enjoy the savings of new energy efficient models. Inspect your dishwasher door’s seals or gaskets, and replace them if they are hard or cracked. Periodically check your washing machine’s drain hose to see that it is clear and uncrimped to the stand pipe (you’d be surprised what sometimes happens to those missing socks).

3. Dehumidify wet basements. Control minor seeping with an oil-based masonry waterproofing paint. Major seeping problems may have to be addressed with a French drain or other pressure relief systems. Get expert advice on this.

4. If you live in an area that experiences freezing temperatures, protect your pipes by covering exterior spigots and allowing interior faucets to drip during cold spells.

5. Know where your home’s water shutoff valve is located and how to operate it. Should you experience sudden flooding from a water supply line failure, shutting off the water quickly will mitigate damage.

Contact any one of our insurance agents, they will be glad to help.

Insurance Agents Offer Safe Driving Tips

With the start of the new year and Winter winds blowing, the snow birds have arrived in Arizona. While these visitors are welcome, the increase in traffic can cause an increase in accidents and insurance claims. Insurance agents would like to offer some safe driving tips for natives and for those who are visiting the state.

Vehicle Safety

Before you get behind the wheel make sure that all of your tires are inflated properly. A low tire could indicate a problem that will make it more difficult to drive, or even cause an accident. Always use your safety belt. This will help reduce injuries for you and your passengers if you do get involved in an accident. If you are driving a rental car, make sure you know where everything is before you start driving. This includes lights, wipers, radio, air conditioning, and mirror controls. Adjust all of the mirrors to ensure you can see clearly.

Double check the dashboard for any warning lights. Proper maintenance on a vehicle will not only improve performance, but improper maintenance can impact insurance claims. Once you are comfortable and everyone is buckled up, you are ready to go.

Of course be sure to follow all traffic signs and obey all traffic laws. These laws are for everyone and help keep us all safe.

Dust Storms and Monsoons

Arizona is in a desert that is subject to frequent dust storms. The high winds sweeping across the dry desert can blow dust onto highways and reduce visibility. Visitors from the north may be familiar with blizzard conditions where blowing snow reduces visibility. Dust storms are much the same, though they don’t make the road slippery. If you are caught in a dust storm turn on your lights and reduce speed accordingly or pull over to the side if the storm is severe. If you decide to pull off the road, be sure to get as far over to the right as possible.

Deserts are not the first environment where people expect floods, but they do happen in Arizona. These flash floods can cover roads with a torrent of water that is dangerous to cross. Areas where floods are common will have signs that say, “do not cross when flooded”. These signs are there for your safety, so find another way to get where you are going.

Don’t cross washes that have swollen with recent rain. There is no way to predict if another rain will send a sudden flash flood down the wash. These flash floods are strong enough to wash away even a large vehicle.

Night Time Driving

Statistically speaking, night time is the most hazardous time to drive in Arizona, according to the Arizona Department of Public Safety. It is important to be particularly cautious when driving after dark. Here are some quick tips to help:

  • Slow down so you are driving within your vehicle’s headlights.
  • Dim your headlights if you are following another driver.
  • Keep your headlights clean.
  • Go slow on curves.
  • Avoid using light inside your car while driving.
  • Do not drive if you are tired.
  • Obey the speed limit (55 mph on federal highways, 65 mph on rural interstates).

Driving safely and following all applicable laws will help avoid costly and dangerous accidents for you and your family.

Arizona Insurance Agents Offer Tips on Kitchen Fire Safety

There’s nothing nicer on a cold winter morning than cooking up a good hot breakfast to share with someone you love. Even kitchen klutzes can figure out how to brew coffee and scramble eggs. But make sure you’re awake before you stumble into the kitchen and turn on the stove, because studies by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) show that the number-one cause of home fires and home fire injuries is cooking, and most of those cooking fires start on the stove. In consultation with the NFPA, your insurance agents should offer these tips for making sure your kitchen experiences are happy ones:

  • Don’t store plasticware or anything flammable in an oven or microwave. Always check inside an oven before turning it on. Completely clear off the stovetop before turning on a burner.
  • Stay focused on cooking. Once you turn on a stovetop burner, don’t leave the kitchen without turning it off. Always keep the stovetop in your field of view when working in the kitchen.
  • In a small kitchen, don’t allow more than one other person to help you cook. Unless this is a special teaching session with one child, keep children away from the stove.
  • Keep a clean kitchen. Grease and food spills can catch fire. Clear clutter away from the stovetop. Have paper recipes encased in plastic, and when you need to refer to them, put them on a counter away from the stove.
  • Use pots and pans of adequate capacity on the stovetop and in the oven to prevent spills.
  • Be careful not to overheat oil or grease. Use cooking thermometers when in doubt. Immediately turn off the heat under any grease that starts to smoke.
  • Roll up sleeves and tuck in loose shirts. An apron is good for more than keeping stains off good clothes; it can keep good clothes from getting scorched.
  • Use the back burners first, and turn pot handles out of the way. Make sure all pots have lids that fit, and have them accessible while cooking.
  • Keep pot holders in a designated place where they are easy to reach when you need them and easy to put away when you don’t.
  • Use timers to remind you what’s cooking where.
  • Keep a charged fire extinguisher in or close to the kitchen.
  • Keep a box of baking soda nearby because…

…if you do have a kitchen fire:

  • Pour baking soda on a grease fire, NOT WATER. Water will cause burning grease to splatter.
  • Turn off all burners and the oven.
  • Slide a lid firmly over a pan with burning contents and leave the lid on until the pan is cool.
  • Use the fire extinguisher that you kept charged and ready. Point the nozzle at the base of the fire, not the flames.
  • If the fire gets out of control, make sure everyone is out of the house. Get out yourself before calling 911. Shut all doors behind you.

We hope this list will help keep your winter cooking pleasant! For more information, please contact our insurance agents.

Arizona Insurance for the Motorcylist

Riding a motorcycle is a fun way to get around, and Arizona’s weather means that when others up north are shivering and huddling under blankets, you can take to the highway. But before you “get your motor running,” there are factors involved in insurance requirements that you need to consider first.

Insurance Itself

First and foremost (and there’s no getting around this), if you are planning to drive on public roads and your vehicle has a motor, you need insurance. Cars, tractors, motorcycles, mopeds, even golf carts are all considered vehicles when it comes to driving on the road (and no, you can’t drive on the sidewalk to get around this restriction).

Arizona requires the same amount of coverage for the motorcycle driver as it does from the automobile driver when it comes to insurance. Namely, the minimum amounts of liability coverage are:

  • $15,000 bodily injury coverage for one person in one accident
  • $30,000 bodily injury coverage total per accident
  • $10,000 property damage coverage per accident

Remember that liability coverage only covers the other people injured in an accident, and not yourself. Comprehensive and collision coverage, while not required, provide quite a bit of peace of mind. That way, you don’t have to worry if that other guy doesn’t have the right amount of insurance.

Insurance coverage is a pretty big deal. If the Motor Vehicle Division inquires about your coverage and you can’t prove you have it, not only could they suspend your motorcycle registration, they could suspend your driver’s license!  Suddenly you go from “born to be wild” to “born to take the bus everywhere,” and are facing a long line to get your registration in order, along with a $50 reinstatement fee.

Is it Actually a Motorcycle?

When looking for insurance, it’s also important to know if you are actually driving a motorcycle. According to Arizona law, not all vehicles on less than four wheels are the same, and this will affect not just your registration fees, but your insurance coverage as well.

The first, and smallest type we’re looking at is the moped, which has bicycle-like pedals and a small engine with less than 50 cc displacement. Mopeds have a maximum speed of 25 miles-per-hour, and 1.5 brake horsepower or less.

Next up, then, is the motor-driven cycle, a motorized vehicle with up to three wheels designed to go faster than 20 mph, but with engine displacement from 49 to 80 cc.  Basically this is the class where you’re going to find your motor scooters.

Anything larger than that, and you’ve got an actual motorcycle, which is any motorized vehicle with up to three wheels, and isn’t a tractor (though using a Harley as a tractor does have a certain appeal, doesn’t it?).

If you’re having difficulty determining what class your bike is, the Motor Vehicle Division of Arizona can provide more information.

Helmet Laws

The amount and type of insurance coverage you have does not have any bearing on the helmet laws of Arizona. Those laws, by the way, require a helmet for any rider or passenger under the age of eighteen. Those over the age of 18 do not have to wear a helmet, but any driver must wear goggles or some form of protection that covers the eyes. Because, let’s face it, you don’t want to take a bug to the eye at 50 mph. Ouch, and ick.

By the way, that same section of law that requires goggles also requires a rear-view mirror, a seat, footrests and handrails for a passenger, and that the driver’s hands be lower than shoulder height as he drives. So your toddler may look cute hanging from the steering bar, but that doesn’t mean he’s safe to drive.

Be safe, and happy riding!

3 Things to Consider When Buying Home Insurance in Arizona

You’re looking for home insurance for your Arizona home. Perhaps you just moved to the state or you’re a first time homeowner. Either way, you’re unsure about what things to consider when you purchase insurance for your home.

What types of coverage do you need? How can you avoid paying too much? What should you look for in a homeowners insurance policy? Here are three things that many homeowners rarely consider when they buy home insurance.

Think About Safety First

Many times when people buy their home, they look for a great area, with friendly neighbors, close to schools or shopping. However, the MSN article, “10 Things That can Lower or Raise Your Homeowners Insurance Rates,” suggests looking for a home near a fire department. According to the post, if your home is over five miles from a fire station or fire hydrants, your insurance rates may be higher.

Additionally, items such as swimming pools, trampolines, and play equipment can cause injuries, thereby raising your rates. Whether it’s a fire or an injury, keep safety in mind when you consider your home.

Consider the Land Your Home is Built On

Most people don’t consider that the land their home sits on isn’t at risk from theft, fires, or other hazards. Therefore, they shouldn’t include its value in deciding how much homeowners insurance to buy. Otherwise, you could pay a higher premium than you should.

Your insurance agent can help you decide how much dwelling coverage to buy. Your coverage should equal the full replacement cost of your home. Replacement cost and market value are not the same. The market value includes the price of your land and depends on the real estate market.

Remember Your Responsibilities as a Homeowner 

Becoming a homeowner means an increased level of responsibility. That responsibility not only includes paying your home mortgage, home insurance premium, and taxes, but it includes maintaining your home and property as well.

Seasonal maintenance includes things such as:

  • Cleaning out your home’s rain gutters
  • Checking your roof for signs of wear and tear
  • Checking the weather stripping and caulking around your doors and windows
  • Cleaning your chimney flue
  • Checking for leaky faucets inside and out

Maintaining your home not only can save you money on the cost of your home insurance, it can keep the expenses of maintaining your home low.

Additionally, as a responsible homeowner, maintaining a solid credit history can help keep your home insurance costs in check. More and more insurance companies are using credit information to determine the cost of home insurance. Generally, they must advise you if there is any adverse action – like a higher rate.

Your best course of action is to keep your credit in good shape by paying your bills – like your home mortgage and insurance – on time and by not getting more credit than you need. And don’t forget to check your credit report regularly for problems or errors. You can check it for free once a year.

For more information on home insurance, check out this guide from the Arizona Department of Insurance or visit our website.

New Year’s Resolutions for Your Home Insurance

With 2013 just around the corner, now is the time to do something for your home. Here are three New Year’s resolutions to ensure your home insurance is in tip-top shape.

Review Your Home Insurance Policy Carefully

Tips for your Phoenix Home Insurance Policy

An insurance policy is a complicated document. Most people don’t thoroughly read their coverage until they need to file a claim. Your first resolution for 2013 is to read your policy, beginning with the declarations page.

The declaration page includes all the basic details including:

  • Name of insurance company
  • Name of insured person(s)
  • Residence of insured person(s)
  • Policy number
  • Policy period
  • Property covered
  • Coverages purchased
  • Limits of liability
  • Deductibles
  • Premium

It’s important to review the declaration page long before you file a claim, to verify the information is accurate and that you have the type and amount of insurance coverage you expect. If not, rectify the situation immediately.

The next part of your insurance package you need to review contains the actual policy. Depending on your insurance carrier, this section may contain information on:

  • Dwelling and personal property
  • Liability
  • Medical payments
  • Additional living expenses
  • Definitions
  • Conditions
  • Limitations
  • Exclusions

Just as with the declarations page, it is important to review the information contained in your policy. Make sure you understand the type of coverage you have and determine if you need to make changes. In all cases, if you have questions or concerns, be sure to contact your insurance agent.

Consider Optional or Additional Home Insurance Coverage 

Your lender typically sets the minimum amount of insurance required to obtain a mortgage. This may be too little or too much for your individual circumstances, so it’s wise to compare the minimum required with your preferences. 

Many homeowners don’t consider what optional coverage they may want or need, or which is not included in their current policy. Optional or additional insurance may include coverage for:

  • Earthquakes
  • Floods (www.floodsmart.gov)
  • Home businesses
  • Sewer backup
  • Umbrella liability
  • Watercraft
  • Theft
  • Debris removal
  • Tree, plant, and shrub protection
  • Credit card coverage
  • Identity theft
  • Mold

For more information, including further descriptions of many of the coverages listed above, the Arizona Department of Insurance offers this booklet: Consumer’s Guide to Homeowners Insurance.

Arrange an Appointment with Your Agent

Most experts recommend conducting an audit of your home insurance coverage at least once a year. Be sure to consider physical changes that could impact the value of your home – a bathroom upgrade, perhaps – or pricey furnishings that might increase the value of its contents. In addition, you may be eligible for discounts, like if you add security features, retirement discounts, or if you’re home more and can keep an eye on your place.

So before 2012 passes by, give your agent a call and arrange for a meeting in 2013. Explain that you want an audit to review your current policy and determine if it still meets your needs.

In the meantime, if you’re shopping around for home insurance, contact us or check out our website for more helpful tips and ideas.

Home Insurance- Know the Unique Weather

Scottsdale Insurance agent can protect

Haboobs, micro-bursts, monsoons, flash flooding and wild fires; where in the United States can all these be found? In my hometown of Mesa, Arizona, that’s where. The Phoenix Metropolitan Area is considered the second safest area in the US for natural disasters, and yes, we do not have hurricanes or cyclones, but those aforementioned weather conditions can and do happen here in the Valley of the Sun.

A Haboob is an intense, massive dust storm that rolls through a desert area picking up sand and dirt. If you have never seen one, it resembles a Tsunami on land. Micro-bursts are the southwest desert area’s equivalent of a tornado. A whirling, swirling little burst of energy that dips and plunges sporadically, and can do quite a bit of wind damage. For a dry, arid community, most people here carry flood insurance. Because our land is so dry, a huge downpour of rain, especially during a monsoon, does not soak into the earth fast enough, and creates rivers and lakes where once there was a nice arroyo or street.

Wild fires in the country always make the news; devastating and damaging, we in the valley are usually spared, but the higher elevations of Arizona surrounding Mesa have wild fire warnings out in the intense summers of excessive heat.

Homeowner insurance in Mesa is very important. A few years ago, on the unique date of 10-10-10, a micro-burst of large proportions came bustling through Mesa and took a huge chunk of my roof and damaged several other homes in the area. My home insurance saved me from being homeless. With a quick call to the agent, an estimator was there within hours and a check for the repairs was in my hands within a week. I now have a very safe, very new, shingled roof.

Even though we carry insurance coverage and have peace of mind from having no place to stay and losing a large piece of equity, taking safety precautions and keeping the home as safe as can be is a smart move. Personally, even in our holiday season, I turn off the holiday lights when I leave for a long length of time; I have heard of too many fires being starting by faulty Christmas tree lights. Another way to prevent electrical problems and potential fires due to overheated air conditioners here in the desert, is to hose the outside units down thoroughly after every dust storm, and/or haboob rolls through.

The Valley of the Sun is a beautiful area to live in, especially in the mild, sunny winters when most of the country is struggling with ice and snow. It is true we will never have to worry about ice storms, snow on the roofs and freezing pipes, but each area of the unique United States topography carries with it some type of dangers to our homes. Talk to your home insurance agent, who is an expert in your area.