Burglary Prevention Tips From Insurance Agents

Arizona Insurance AgentsAlthough it’s comforting to know that your insurance agents are there and ready to help if something goes wrong, nobody wants to have to file an insurance claim.

Prevention is the key to avoiding most home insurance claims. Of course, you can’t control everything that happens in life, but when it comes to protecting your home from burglary, there are actually many relatively simple preventative steps that you can take.

The first, and perhaps most obvious step is to invest in security features such as a reliable alarm, deadbolt locks, window locks, and outdoor lighting with motion-sensors. Be sure to let your insurance company know if you do install any of these items, because it can mean lower premiums on your homeowners insurance.

But there are plenty of other things you can do to reduce the likelihood of a burglary. Don’t leave ladders anywhere that might be accessible to potential intruders. Secure sliding doors and windows. Always lock both your front and back doors anytime you go outside, and keep your garage doors closed. Don’t leave windows open when you’re away. Don’t leave valuables in plain sight, and if you purchase new appliances or electronics, don’t put the box out by the curb where everyone can see what shiny new item you have inside.

Take safety into consideration in your landscaping plans, as well. Make sure any bushes or shrubs near windows aren’t providing a convenient hiding spot for intruders. Trim back any tree branches that could provide access to upper-story windows. Keep in mind that any overgrown trees or shrubbery in the yard can create concealing shadows.

It’s common for homeowners to leave a spare key hidden somewhere outside in case they are locked out. But burglars will check in the more obvious places, and even if you’re a savvy key hider, it’s still possible that someone might figure out your hiding spot. Instead, give a spare key to a friend or a neighbor you trust. Speaking of neighbors, it’s worth getting to know yours. Neighbors who know each other are better able to identify strangers and more likely to look out for each others’ property and safety.

Mostly, burglars just want to get in, take your stuff, and get out. That’s why burglaries tend to occur during the day when people are at work. If you can create an illusion that someone is home, they won’t want to take the chance. Interior lights with timers can give the appearance that the home is occupied, but make sure you have window coverings to prevent anyone from seeing clearly inside.

If you’re going to be away from home for an extended period of time, then you’ll need to prepare in advance. Before going out of town, make arrangements to ensure that the lawn gets mowed or the sidewalk gets shoveled. Put a hold on mail and newspapers so they won’t pile up outside your home. Neighbors can collect any packages that are delivered, or even park their car in your driveway. You can also contact the police and notify them of the dates you will be away.

Burglary results not only in the loss of your belongings but also your peace of mind. So it’s well worth the investment of time and money to do everything you can to prevent it from happening in the first place.

Emergency Preparedness and Home Insurance

Sometimes when people think of emergency or disaster preparedness, they think it applies to someone else. If you live in California, you have to worry about earthquakes. If you live near the Gulf Coast, you have to contend with hurricanes. People in the northern states confront snowstorms year after year.

Well, if you’re a homeowner in Arizona you have to prepare for monsoons (we have had a ton of rain this monsoon season), flooding, and dust storms. Taking steps in case of any type of emergency means being proactive, including having the right home insurance policy.

Important Records 

Just like a business, your personal papers are important to your home operation. At the Ready.gov website provided by FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Administration), they offer tips on what you need to do to prepare.

One way to plan is to have copies of all your important documents, which are then stored in a secure place. Experts suggest your secure place should be far enough away in case of widespread disaster, yet close enough for quick access.

One suggestion is to have two separate safe and secure locations for storing your papers: a safe deposit box containing items such as:

  • Birth Certificates
  • Marriage Certificates
  • Wills
  • Deeds
  • Titles to Automobiles
  • Household Inventory
  • Bonds and Stock Certificates
  • Important Contracts

In addition, you should have a secure, yet active file, containing items such as:

  • Tax Receipts
  • Unpaid Bills
  • Employment Records
  • Health Benefit Information
  • Credit Card Information
  • Insurance Policies
  • Medical Records
  • Inventory of Safe Deposit Box (and key)

Another important part of your records should be a complete, up-to-date list of emergency contacts, including name, phone numbers, and email addresses. For more information and a complete list of items to store, check out this publication on USA.com.

Emergency Kit 

An emergency kit contains basic household items you will need in the event of an emergency. Be sure to assemble it well in advance and store it safely somewhere your entire family knows about, as you may have to evacuate without much notice.

Experts recommend having enough non-perishable food and water to last at least 72 hours. In addition, you should include:

  • Battery-operated radio
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • First-aid kit
  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket
  • Matches
  • Fully-charged cell phone
  • Paper and pencil
  • Sturdy shoes and clothing 

For a complete checklist from FEMA, click here.

Home Insurance 

Finally, be sure you have the right home insurance in case of an emergency. In the 2012 post, “Do You Have Enough Insurance to Cover Rebuilding Costs After a Disaster?”, the Small Business Administration suggests taking steps to protect your small business. We’ve adapted them for home use:

  • Check Your Insurance Coverage. Contact your insurance agent to find out if your policy is adequate for your needs. Tailor your polity to the specific needs of an Arizona home. Remember to review and update it often. The home you bought even just five years ago could cost more to rebuild today. CBSNewswatch.com article reports, “Nearly 6 of 10 American houses are underinsured, with most insurance policies having only enough insurance to pay about 80 percent of the costs to replace or rebuild their homes, according to property data provider MSB”.
  • Ask questions. Make sure you understand your policy limits, the deductible, and what is actually covered.
  • Consider emergency riders. The U.S. Geological Survey reports that floods are the leading cause of natural disaster property losses. Most homeowners insurance policies don’t cover flood losses. Make sure to talk with your insurance agent about the types of disaster prevalent in Arizona and how to obtain coverage.
  • Take inventory. Inventory your personal items before disaster strikes. Record the price and estimated replacement cost. Keep receipts, take photos and video of your property, and store this information at a secure location.

With a little forethought and preparation, you can prepare yourself and your home for any emergency. Contact your local insurance agent to make sure you have the coverages on your policy.

Protect Your Home During a Vacation

It’s finally vacation time and you’re excited about much needed relaxation. When you go on vacation, you want to be able to forget about the struggles at home and not have to worry about your home and your things. Here a few tips to ensure you have a safe trip without an unneeded insurance claim when you return.

Home Burglary Prevention

First, let’s talk about burglaries. To prevent your home from being broken into while you’re away, take a few precautionary measures.  If you live near neighbors you trust, consider letting them know you’ll be gone on vacation, and offering them a way to contact you in case something at your home looks suspicious. If you’re active on social media, be cautious about what you tell your online friends about your whereabouts. Sometimes we are so excited that we inadvertently give too much information about ourselves, leading would be criminals right to our door while we are away.

Keep a light on. Whether you just keep an inside light on the entire time you’re away, or you put an inside light on a timer for a more authentic feel, having a light on will deter unwanted strangers from entering your home in the evening. The more you give the appearance that you are home, the less likely a home burglar will be inclined to invade your space. In addition, consider trimming back bushes and trees, as many thieves use such items to conceal themselves from the street as they break into your home. Walk around the perimeter of your home and try to think like a criminal, if there is a ladder or box near a window, move it to make accessing your home inconvenient.

Close the shades and blinds of your home before you leave. Doing so will conceal your valuables from a stranger’s view, making “window shopping” not as easy or convenient. You don’t want to advertise to passers by that you have the latest gaming system, or that you own nice pieces of jewelry.

Have your mail and newspaper deliveries held or have them be picked up by a friend. There is nothing more obvious that you’re away than newspapers building up on the driveway and a full mailbox. You might also ask them to check your door for solicitations, asking them to remove any door hangers or advertisements they may find.  If you will be away for a long period of time, have someone mow your lawn. An unkept lawn is another sign of a homeowner who might be away. Lock all your doors, gates, and garage openings.

Now let’s talk about property damage. Spend a few minutes going around unplugging appliances that will not be in use.  In case of a storm, your appliances will be protected from power surges, and possible fires. Turn down the thermostat so the a/c or heater isn’t working constantly. This will save you money, but it will also help prevent something from going wrong while you are away, only to come home to a flooded a/c unit or a burned heating element.

If you’re going to be away for an extended amount of time, you’ll want to consider turning off the main water valve to your home, including sprinkler units, especially in the winter time when ice can break water pipes.

Remove toys and other items from your yard that might cause damage to your home, like windows or your roof, in the case of severe weather.

Taking a few moments to safeguard your home will allow you to take a vacation without worrying about what is going on with your valuables. Do the work beforehand so you can rightfully relax while you’re away!

We also recommend that you give your neighbor your insurance agent contact info. Should something happen such as water damage, you will want your agent to begin handling the claim to prevent further damage.

Things Not to do When in an Auto Accident

As an insurance agent in Arizona, I get several calls a week from clients asking pretty much the same question. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love talking to my clients and helping them with their questions. For whatever reason, today I had the case of the giggles (probably too much caffeine) so I created this funny picture of what NOT to do when you find yourself in an accident. Feel free to share.

What not to do when in an Arizona Insurance accident

Protecting Your Jewelry Through Homeowners Insurance

When you purchase homeowners insurance, you may find yourself overwhelmed at thinking of all the details of what could go wrong, and what claims you may have in the future. One of our most precious valuables is jewelry, whether they were costly or they have sentimental significance, you’ll want to be sure you have the insurance coverage you need if something goes wrong. Here are a few steps to take to verify that you’re insured correctly, and that you have the information you need in case disaster strikes: Arizona Home Insurance coverage for jewelryFirst, find out what your home insurance covers. Many policies will state a total amount, and a max amount per article of jewelry. For example, your policy might state $1500 total, with no more than $1000 for each item. In addition, you’ll want to verify that your policy will offer coverage in the case of theft, damage, or loss.  Once you find out how much your policy covers, you’ll want to do a little background research to determine if it is sufficient. Second, take pictures of each piece of jewelry. This is not only to prove that you own it, but it will also detail their condition in the case of damage. Catalog your jewelry, with each picture you’ll want to note when it was purchased, or otherwise gifted to you, and how much you paid. Keep receipts, if possible, and place them with the pictures. You may consider having a file just for insurance purposes, with not just pictures of jewelry and descriptions, but also any other insurance related items, like receipts for furniture or appliances. Third, have your pieces appraised.  Find a certified appraiser and find out how much your jewelry is worth. Have the worth of each piece in writing so that you can submit it to your homeowners insurance if needed. Do be aware that the value of jewelry will change over time, as the price of gold and silver fluctuates. So even if you have had them appraised in the past, there is no harm in getting an updated appraisal for your file. Finally, speak to your insurance agent about the coverage you have versus the coverage you need. Having the above information will help your agent offer you the type of coverage that will suit your needs and your valuables. The least expensive way to cover your jewelry is to increase the level of coverage on your existing policy, but if you have a lot of jewelry, or very expensive items, you may want to consider adding a personal jewelry policy, which will cover just the jewelry and often at a higher policy limit than a traditional homeowners insurance. Being armed with the above knowledge and getting the policy that suits your needs will prevent added stress and uncertainty in the face of a crisis. Knowing in advance that you have prepared yourself and your policy for the worst will bring you comfort in the day to day.

Some Tips BEFORE the Disaster Hits

Hello homeowners, we are homeowners insurance with offices located in Mesa, Gilbert, Tucson and Phoenix. We want to pass along some advice for you regarding your homes and homeowners insurance that you should be looking at today! Start with your TTD – THINGS TO DO list.

With all the devastation in our surrounding states from forest fires, we’d like to bring you some advice.

Before the fire or disaster strikes, do this, like, right NOW:

A)    Plan ahead. If family members are away from home, arrange ahead of time a DCP – designated convenient place to meet away from your home or the possible disaster in your area. Pick a gas station, convenience store, grocery store, maybe a mall, or a school, somewhere YOU all know EXACTLY where to go to meet up, this is your DCP and #2 on your TTD list. Keep in mind, family members must be prepared for this as well, regardless of where you are, you may not be able to get back to your home, you may have to depend on a son or daughter who is at home to do this, so run down the list of TTD with them beforehand, walk thru it once or twice a year. Update it as you need to.

B)    Plan ahead. Tell ALL family members where you will be planning to go, pick a motel or hotel 20 miles away, write down their phone number on your TTD list, plan on calling them for a reservation when the evacuation order comes. MAKE it number 3 on your TTD. Next, pick an alternate motel or hotel that is 30 miles away, write down that phone number on your TTD list, if you cannot get a reservation at No. 3, this is your number 4 – TTD, your contingency plan, communicate this with ALL family members! Put this TTD LIST of Things To Do and let your entire family know where it is, or better yet, give a copy to your neighbors and your closest family members.

C)    Have you got a pet (or pets)? Make sure you have a weeks supply of food for each pet set aside. Put this food and where it’s stored on your list of TTD as #5.

D)    As you make your TTD List, keep in mind how much space your vehicle has, will it (whatever IT is that you are wanting to take with you) fit with everything else on the list?  Keep this in mind when you organize your TTD. Be prepared to leave sentimental objects behind, you will NOT have time to dwell on it later.

E)    INVENTORY – Take a pad of paper and walk through your home and write down everything you have, include taking picture,s which are also helpful.  Download your pictures to a flash drive for convenience, but either have a flash drive OR get actual pictures and assemble them all together (pictures should include all room furniture, unique items, grandfather clocks, fine art, jewelry, electronics, heirloom items, irreplaceable items, and collectibles). Put this inventory paper in a safe place, ready to go. Include this INVENTORY on your TTD list.

F)    BUNDLE – collect the most important papers and keep them in a safe and secure location that you can easily open, grab the bundle, and go. This should include: your family’s birth certificates, social security cards, passports, insurance papers, car titles, and all photos taken of your home possessions and valuables, either the actual prints OR the flash drive that has the pictures. Include this BUNDLE of paperwork on your TTD list.

G)    Make a list of irreplaceable family pictures that you do not want to lose, this should be a picture checklist, and when you are told to evacuate, grab this checklist and gather up ONLY what you have written down beforehand, you will NOT have time to get sidetracked once the evacuation order comes! Include this on your TTD list.

When ordered to evacuate, keep your time in mind, hurry, but be organized (be aware, it’s possible you may NOT have 30 minutes, maybe 10 or  or even less!):

A)    TTD #1 – Get your family and pets in the car.

B)    TTD #2 – Contact immediate family members and tell them to muster at the pre-designated meeting place, you are evacuating.  KISS – keep it short and simple. This is your No.2 TTD item. Do NOT plan on having family or friends come to your home once the evacuation order is placed, all roads lead OUT and to safety.

C)    Proceed with your TTD list of THINGS TO DO.

D)   Focus on driving safely. Get to your motel/hotel safely.

E)    RECEIPTS – Typically your homeowners insurance policy will cover reasonable expenses for room and meals. Save your receipts if you are told to evacuate your home by emergency personnel. Most policies cover this but have daily limits.

F)    Once you have reached your safe hotel/motel, THEN contact family & friends and inform them of same.

If you need help accessing your homeowners policy for disasters and the like, we’re here. Contact your insurance agent before you actually need us. Our advice is free. Bring your inventory list with you.

Protecting Against Roof Repair Scams

It is that time of year again… Monsoon Season!

photo from boomerinthepew.com

During Monsoon Season, homeowners experience the beauty and splendor of the Arizona terrain. Flowers are in bloom thanks to more rainfall, hail and the beauty of our sunsets is magnified. It is the time of year when the animals come out in force- more than any other time of the year. Everything is radiant, until one morning when you look up and see what you have been dreading since the rains first started. Nightmares of that last hail storm begin flooding your dreams: roof damage. This damage is of course, not always delivered in the form of hail. Tree branches and high winds can add damage to already aging roofs and deteriorate living conditions and affect the costs of utilities over time if repair is stalled for too long.

An even bigger hazard to your health, your roof, your wallet AND you standing with your insurance are roof repair scams. Everyone has heard the horror stories of scam artists who took their victim’s insurance money and disappeared into thin air, leaving behind unfinished work or not showing up to do work at all. We have found through the years of taking calls from clients that not all roofing contractors are the same.

Here are a few tips to help protect you from roof repair scams:

Take the time to shop around: There is no shame in getting multiple quotes from different roofing companies. Go for it! In addition, your insurance agent may even be able to provide a list of roofing companies or refer you to roofing contractors that are located in your area. But you will never know if you don’t ask.

Don’t find yourself in high pressure situations: If a salesman is trying to pressure you or if something just doesn’t feel right about it- listen to your gut instincts. A good roofing contractor will work with you in order to get your business, not pressure you into a contract.

Research all roofing companies that you are considering: Before you begin deciding which roofing company you want to use, make sure that they are a legitimate business with a license to do home repair work in Arizona. The presence of a contractor’s license is very important as it can help to identify whether or not the company is a legitimate business. You can look up license numbers and get more information at the Arizona Contractor License Center.

In addition to the above website, you can also refer to websites such as the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org) or websites such as Angie’s List (www.angieslist.com), which can aid you through reviews written by previous customers (however, you should always take these reviews with a grain of salt).

-Don’t be afraid to ask questions: This is your roof. It is something that will be hanging over your head (literally), for quite some time. Asking questions is not a bad thing. Often times, a good company will encourage asking questions.

NEVER pay prior to repairs: One staple of being scammed is that the salesman will want the money before the work is started. So don’t give the full amount until the work is complete. Some roofing companies do require money before hand, but a legitimate contractor or roofing company shouldn’t ask for the full amount prior to completing the project.

Storm Damage:

If you do have storm damage and you have extensive water damage in your home, you should call a water damage repair contractor. Many times you will have a tree that has fallen and you need a tree removal company.

For more tips and articles regarding insurance, please visit: Arizona Capital Insurance.

Insurance Agents Always Have Your Back

We all like to think of life as void of mishaps. No one ever breaks a leg rock climbing to impress a girl, careens their Yukon off the desert highway because a bee flies into the vehicle, or drives their golf cart into the pool because… well, you use your imagination. At least this is our dream that gets us through the darkest hours of the night.

Arizona Insurance agents protect for car accidents.When dawn and reason return, we can all admit that some sort of “accident” is likely to befall us at some point in our lifetimes. When these hiccups appear on your radar, make sure you have one of the finest in your back pocket. No, I am not referencing an officer of the law here, although you might meet one depending on your type of misfortune. I am referring to one of the many dependable insurance agents awaiting your call.

Arizona is one of the most gorgeous places to call home, but it also offers a series of contrasts that can make life tricky. Where else can you have a 104 degree day followed by a 60 degree night, or some of the nation’s plushest golf courses abutting the most unforgiving desert? As a citizen of Arizona, you need to be aware of these distinctions and plan ahead for them. I am talking prevention here, the enemy of pitfall.

So, what exactly do you need to do to safeguard life, limb, and property in our unforgiving climate? You can divide these needs into two categories- people you love and stuff you love. First, think about the most important things in your life- the people. No one wants to talk about life insurance because death is icky. I get creeped out too, but buying life insurance just in case is not going to kill you. Plus, this is about your family, not you. You’ll be dead, so what will you care? Your loved ones are still going to have all the desires and necessities they do now, so take care of it. Life Happens is a nonprofit organization that provides a very non-threatening introduction to life insurance, such as why you need it and how much you need. Peruse this site and then contact your agent.

When you have conquered your own mortality and lived to tell of it, then you need to turn your attention to protecting the stuff. The major players here are of course your house and automobiles. Again, Arizona is unique in that we boast a large number of residents who may not reside here all year. If you are one of these individuals, be sure to appropriately prepare the home for your absence. Everything from taking your most valuable items to a bank’s safety deposit box, to turning off the water main, to hiring a landscaping crew to care for your yard, must be done before you leave. Even if you are not leaving during the summer or flying north, you must give the article “How to ‘Summarize’ your Arizona Home Before Flying North” a look. It has some very helpful hints, whether you are novice or veteran at the migration.

The rest of you need to make sure that your house and its contents are adequately covered. Spend time taking stock of what you have and communicate that earnestly to your agent. Agents are experts, so allow them to help you set the guidelines. Don’t forget to mention things like the number of bedrooms, building materials used, or whether you have a pool. Be thorough so your agent can provide you with the full coverage you need. The same goes for your cars. Auto policies can seem complicated on the surface, but the insurance agent can translate for you. In case you zoned out, the key to finding the appropriate home and auto insurance here is open communication with your agent.

So you won’t break a leg, drive your car off the road, or sink a golf cart. But if you do, you’d better have a dang good insurance agent.

Insurance Helps You Pick Up the Pieces

The defining mark of a catastrophe is that it is unexpected. If we knew something dreadful was about to occur, we would probably take the time to get things in order, collect our most precious belongings, and do anything in our power to try and prevent the catastrophe from ever happening.

Unfortunately, that’s just not how the world works and catastrophes occur before we know it. Then we’re left to pick things up the best that we can.

In Arizona, a catastrophe to your home might occur when the wind changes direction and a wildfire moves in the direction of where you live.  Or, maybe you forget to turn off your main water valve before you leave town and a burst pipe floods your home. A catastrophe could happen when a strong storm knocks an electrical wire down on your roof.

So, how do you begin to pick up the pieces if something catastrophic does happen to your home. Where do you even start?

According to an article in the Arizona Daily Star“Most homeowners have an ally they may not think of in a major home repair crisis.” That ally is none other than your insurance agent.

In the article, Tim Jankovsky, a Tuscon Insurance agent, states that Homeowners insurance carriers in Arizona frequently maintain a list of approved vendors.”  These vendors might include specific trade experts, like roofers or plumbers, restoration experts, or emergency cleanup crews.

So, if a catastrophe occurs, call your insurance agent as soon as possible to get a list of their approved vendors. “Using that service… may not only speed up getting help to your house, but could save you money on work the insurance company doesn’t cover.”

Your insurance agents might not be able to help you predict or prevent a catastrophe from happening, but they will be there to help you pick up the pieces.