*Healthcare: Open Enrollment has been extended until January 15th. Current policy holders can submit changes to their existing plan or submit a NEW plan. Once the 15th has passed, you will not be able to make any plan changes. NEW policies submitted during this time will take effect February 1st.
*Medicare: Medicare Supplement policy holders ages 65-75 have the option to change to another Medicare Supplement plan without requiring underwriting approval. To qualify for the Birthday Rule, you must enroll in a plan with the same or lesser benefits. The change must be done within 45 days AFTER your birthday.
*Medicare: Medicare Advantage policy holders are currently in a second Open Enrollment period until March 31st. During this time, you can change to another Medicare Advantage Plan.
*Auto/Home Insurance: Many policies renew during the month of January. When reviewing rates consider these tips:
+Always review the total package (i.e. home and auto). Often, some carriers will have a better rate on the home as opposed to the auto however, the total calculation needs to be reviewed when determining the best scenario.
+Make sure you are matching coverages. Some carriers are notorious for removing full coverage to reduce the rate. Sadly, some people do not realize that until they have an accident. Full coverage means the carrier will fix your vehicle in the event of an at fault accident. On the flip side, liability only means your vehicle is NOT getting fixed in the event of an at fault accident.
*Life Insurance: With the start of the New Year, many will review their financial goals for the year and discuss any gaps. Many people will not buy Life Insurance because they overestimate the cost of a policy. Costs depend on a number of factors, including your health, age, tobacco use, and gender. As one example, a healthy 35-year-old male can expect to pay about $20 per month for $250,000 on a 30-year term.
*Business Insurance: We’ve received LOTS of calls lately regarding employees injured on the job. A workers compensation policy provides wage replacement and medical benefits to employees injured as a result of their job. Premiums are based on the annual payroll and type of work performed.
I am a broker. This means I represent MULTIPLE carriers which allows me the opportunity to review rates with each carrier. This helps me determine which carrier is offering the best package to fit your family’s needs. There is NO additional cost associated with working with a broker.
Each year Patti and I review your renewal. If there is a $100 increase to your home or auto insurance renewal, Patti will contact you to inform you of the increase and ask if it is okay to review options. I have saved some of my own clients $800+ per year just by reviewing their renewal!
I represent A+ carriers. Some of the carriers I represent are Travelers Insurance, AAA, The Hartford, Nationwide, Progressive, etc. When classified as an A+ carrier, this means they pay claims, have a good customer service department, and billing department.
It is easier to call one person for all of your insurance needs.
I have consistently saved people money on their home and auto insurance.
Patti will be reaching out to you soon to discuss your home and auto insurance policies renew and options to combine your policies.
What You Need to Know About Auto and Home Renewals
The summer months are the time that most homeowner’s insurance policies renew. The biggest reason is that many people purchase/move during the summer months.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when reviewing your renewals.
When looking at rates, always review the total package (i.e. home and auto). Often, some carriers will have a better rate on home as opposed to auto however, the total calculation needs to be reviewed when determining the best scenario.
Consider a higher deductible. Most people now have a $500 deductible on auto and $1,000 deductible on home.
When reviewing rates, make sure to consider the wind/hail deductible. Some carriers will now require a 1% deductible for wind/hail claims. If your deductible is $1,000 and your replacement cost is $250,000, your wind/hail deductible would be $2,500. This means any claims related to wind/hail are subject to a separate, larger deductible. If your current policy has $1,000 deductible, you’ll need to get an accurate comparison.
Do NOT skimp on coverages. Dropping your liability limits saves very little in your annual premium.
If you own a rental, also assess the total package when shopping rates. Some carriers will require the primary residence in order to consider the rental property. Their rates can be ½ of what the other carriers offer by packaging your primary residence with the same carrier.
Ask to have your home’s replacement cost recalculated. Each year the carrier will increase the dwelling coverage to protect against inflation.
Make sure you are matching coverages. Some carriers are notorious for removing full coverage to reduce the rate. Sadly, some people do not realize that until they have an accident. Full coverage means the carrier will fix your vehicle in the event of an at-fault accident. On the flip side, liability only means your vehicle is NOT getting fixed in the event of an at-fault accident.
Choose your words wisely when calling other companies. If you tell an agent you want the “cheapest rate possible” or “basic coverages”, this often means the lowest possible liability limits ($25,000/$50,000) and liability-only coverage. Again, you do not save much by reducing the liability limits.
If you would like to get a free quote and find out how you can save money by about combining your insurance policies, please call Kelly or Patti at 708-444-0050. Get Ready to Save!
The U.S. economy is struggling to come back from the coronavirus. One area that proves to be surprisingly strong is Housing. Because of low mortgage rates, real estate in many cities, including Illinois, are selling nearly as briskly as it was before Covid-19. Properties that come on the market that are priced right are gone in a matter of hours.
According to Redfin, more than 41% of homes faced a bidding war in the four weeks ending May 10. That’s up from just 9% in January before the pandemic hit the U.S
If you’re hoping to buy a home in a hot real estate market, here’s what you need to know:
Do your research
A Travelers Insurance article states, Starting your hunt virtually while sheltering in place can be beneficial if you find you have the time to shop online more thoroughly; that extra effort may give you an advantage in finding a home you love within your price range
Many real estate agents post virtual tours of properties for sale on their websites and YouTube. When you take a virtual tour or attend a virtual open house, you can get a realistic view of the property.
Get Preapproved for a Mortgage
The Travelers article also mentions, get a mortgage preapproval before you begin house hunting. It may be possible to get preapproved online, so consider looking into that option. A mortgage preapproval is a letter from a lender that indicates how much you are qualified to borrow from the lender, at a specific interest rate.
Check your credit reports and get your credit score. Good credit, such as a FICO score of 620 or higher, will qualify you for a conventional mortgage and lower interest rate.
Gather all the information your lender will need to start the mortgage preapproval process: income information (W-2 statements from the last two years and recent pay stubs); asset information (bank statements and investment account statements); and your personal identification.
According to Money.com, homes that are clean and priced well will sell in the first weekend or week on the market. Just as COVID-related shutdowns began, you should look at properties as quickly as you can when they come on the market.
If and when you make an offer, stay available to accept or reject counteroffers. The listing agent isn’t going to wait for you. Also, choose a lender who can do a speedy closing — within seven to 10 days.
Since there has been bidding wars on house buying, you may need to make an offer on more than one property, and yours may be just one of multiple offers. Multiple offers are increasingly the norm, especially in the spring market. The money.com article also suggests because you might need to bid higher, don’t look at homes at the top of your price range. Know your maximum price and look at properties listed for less than that, so you have room to make a higher offer if that’s required.
Put 20% down and bump up your earnest money
Money.com also states the more money you put down, the stronger your offer will appear. The same is true of earnest money.
Even during these challenging times, there is still much you can accomplish in your quest to find your dream home. If you’re planning to buy a house, you’ll need homeowners insurance.
Insurance Steps to Consider When Purchasing a New Home
The most obvious step is to obtain quotes for the new residence. You’ll need to know specifics about the residence: year built, square footage, construction, etc. Most of this information is available online. Your agent should be able to obtain this information with a proper address.
Have your agent review your auto as well for a complete package. Typically, you obtain the best rate by packaging your home and auto together.
The agent will calculate a replacement cost estimate to determine how much coverage you need to insure your home (aka dwelling coverage). The replacement cost estimate is obtained by using the information above.
Think about how you will title your property. Homeowners insurance should list all names that are listed on the title.
Be sure to discuss any areas of additional concerns with your agent (i.e. if you run your business from home, if you have expensive jewelry, or if you have any collections). Coverage is inexpensive to add and will make your life easier during the claims process.
If your new home has a pool, consider an umbrella policy. An umbrella policy is extra liability. A pool always means more visitors which inevitably leads to an increased opportunity for injury. With a cost of $150+ per year for $1 million in coverage it may be worth it to consider the policy.
Share your agent’s contact information with the person handling your financing. They will eventually want to obtain proof of insurance and confirm the home is properly protected. It is also helpful for the agent to obtain a copy of your appraisal to ensure the replacement cost estimate is accurate. Not everything online is accurate!
Same as above, however you should also let your agent know what you will be doing with your existing home. This is important because the coverage type will change. If you are not properly covered, the carrier may NOT cover your claim. Often people plan on selling the existing home, but the property ends up vacant for a longer time frame than anticipated. In the event of a loss, the carrier will DENY coverage because the property is vacant. We can fix this by switching the policy to a Landlord policy or Vacant policy. Most carriers will allow for a property to be vacant for 30-60 days.
We all know that living in Illinois we can experience temperatures and wind chills that are below -20. Our heating systems are not designed for. -20º to -30º temperatures with wind chills down to -50º, and can create a lot of damage to your house.
Homes can struggle to keep up, and the temperature may drop while the heating system is working at full capacity. To help your home make it through the winter without any mishaps, here are tips to properly winterize your home, inside and outside.
Inside The House
Keep your house heated to a minimum of 65 degrees. The temperature inside the walls where the pipes are located is substantially colder than the walls themselves. A temperature lower than 65 degrees might not keep the inside walls from freezing.
Identify the location for the main water shutoff in your home. Find out how it works in case you have to use it.
Open hot and cold faucets enough to let them drip slowly. Keeping water moving within the pipes will prevent freezing.
If you use fireplaces, wood stoves and electric heaters, watch them closely and make sure they are working properly.
Remember to close the flue in your fireplace when you’re not using it.
When traveling, ask a neighbor to check the house regularly. If there is a problem with frozen pipes or water leakage, attending to it quickly could mean far less damage.
If you plan to be away for an extended period of time, have the water system, including pool plumbing, drained by a professional to keep pipes from freezing or bursting.
Outside The House
Keep sidewalks and entrances to your home free from snow and ice.
Watch for ice dams near gutter downspouts. Ice dams can cause water to build up and seep into your house.
Clear gutters of leaves and debris to allow runoff from melting snow and ice to flow freely.
If you own a swimming pool and temperatures are expected to dip below freezing, run the pool pump at night to keep the water flowing through the pipes.
Make sure all hoses are disconnected from outside spigots.
If your garage is attached to your house, keep the garage doors closed. The door leading to the house is probably not as well-insulated as an exterior door.
If ice forms on tree limbs, watch for dead, damaged or dangerous branches that could break loose when stressed by ice, snow or wind and damage your house or car, or injure someone on or near your property.
If your home suffers water damage, it is important to make sure that it is properly dried and repaired to prevent any potential problem with mold. Remember, mold cannot survive without moisture.
Frozen or Burst Pipes
If you discover that pipes are frozen, don’t wait for them to burst. Take measures to thaw them immediately, or call a plumber for assistance.
If your pipes burst, first turn off the water and then mop up spills to avoid further damage.
Your Insurance Coverage
Standard homeowners policies will cover most kinds of damage that result from a freeze. For instance, if house pipes freeze and burst or if ice forms in gutters and causes water to back up under roof shingles and seep into the house. You would also be covered if the weight of snow or ice damages your house.
Most policies do not cover backups in sewers and drains or flood damage, which can also happen in winter. To be covered for flooding, you need a separate flood policy from the National Flood Insurance Program.
Insurance is there for you when you need it. It’s your the safety net. But when something happens to your house or car, it can cause a lot of stress not knowing what is covered or how to file a claim. Depending on what kind of damage you’re facing, filing an insurance claim might help relieve some of the financial problems.
What Is an Insurance Claim?
Filing an insurance claim means you’re making a formal request to your insurance company to receive funds to help you pay for repairs and other expenses caused by an event (car accident or a home burglary) that is covered by your insurance.
Every situation is different, and as an Independent Agent, I can help you outline the specifics and assist in filing a claim. Below, I have provided common questions and answers to help you understand filing insurance claims forhome or auto insurance.
Q. What I am in a car accident and not at fault?
Be sure to obtain the other person’s insurance card. Taking a picture with your phone is the easiest and most acceptable.
File the claim with the other party’s insurance carrier. If you file it with your own, you will be obligated to pay your deductible (typically $500). Your carrier will fight to get this back, however depending on the other party’s carrier (i.e. substandard) this could take months to get your money back. Once the money is returned to the carrier, they will send it back to you. This is often referred to as subrogation.
If you file with the claim with other party, you will be able to obtain a rental car at the expense of the other insurance carrier.
Do NOT wait for the other driver to file the claim. If you want to get the ball rolling, use the information from the ID card they provided to file the claim. The carrier will require a statement from you and the other driver.
Q. What if I am in a car accident and at fault?
Provide the other party with your ID card. If your car is damaged and you want it fixed, contact your carrier. If not, you can choose to pay the damages out of pocket or file it with your insurance carrier. I recommend NOT providing your ID card if you plan on paying it out of pocket. Any time you contact the carrier direct to ask about a claim or file the claim, only to pay it out of pocket, the claim will be on your record for 5 years.
If you are at fault, rental car reimbursement is only provided if you have rental reimbursement on your policy. Many people with liability only coverage or more vehicles than drivers do NOT have rental reimbursement. If this is important to you, may sure your policy covers it. The additional is cost is normally $30 per year per vehicle.
Q. What if I need rental car coverage?
Rental car reimbursement only provides coverage when your vehicle is damaged due to an accident. It does NOT provide coverage due to your vehicle breaking down.
The car rental company will ask if you want to purchase their insurance coverage. Please note, your policy will provide coverage to the rental vehicle. If you had to file a claim, the claim will be listed on your record and may affect your rate in the future.
Q. What if I am injured in a auto accident?
If you are injured in an auto mobile accident, the carrier (yours or the other party’s, depending who is at fault), will pay for medical damages, lost wages, etc. I recommend contacting an attorney to help you through the process. If you do not have an attorney, I am happy to recommend one as I work with multiple.
If the other party’s coverage does not provide enough coverage, your policy will cover for any additional expenses, under your uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.
Q. What if I have water damage?
If the damage is caused by water, take many pictures, and get the water out ASAP. The longer the water sits, the more damage will incur, and many policies have a limit on water damage (i.e. $5,000 or $10,000).
The carrier will provide you a check for the initial damages, less depreciation. Once the damages have been repaired you must show proof to receive 100% of the payout. Receipts or construction contracts will work as proof.
Q. What if I have a claim on a rental property?
If the claim is on a rental property, the carrier will ask for proof that the property was/is occupied. If the property is insured as tenant occupied and is actually vacant, they will deny coverage. Call me if your property is vacant as we will adjust coverage immediately.
Q. What if someone is injured on my property?
If someone is injured on your property, they will receive payout from your medical coverages (typically $5,000 max) if it is worse than that they will sue you for the limit of your liability coverage/umbrella. This limit is typically $300,000 for a single-family residence and an additional $1 million with the umbrella.
Liability coverage protects you in the event anyone is injured on your property. Invited or not, you can and will be sued due to an injury.
Q. What if I have fire damage?
In the event of a fire loss, the carrier will ask for a list of ALL of your personal possessions. If it is not a total loss, they will be able to obtain pictures of the remaining items, but I ALWAYS recommend taking pictures/videos of your personal possessions; open drawers, closets, under beds, etc. You will NEVER remember everything you own without some sort of documentation.
Q. What if I need replacement costs for personal possessions?
I write ALL of my home/renters’ policies to include replacement cost of your personal possessions. This means the carrier will provide you the full value to replace your personal effects.
Q. What if my dog bites someone?
Your home/renter’s policy does provide coverage for dog bites. Depending on the severity of the dog bite, the medical portion will pay out first (typically $5,000 limit) followed by your liability (typically $300,000) and umbrella (if you have one). However, depending on the type of dog you own (Pit Bull, Rottweilers, Doberman Pinchers, etc.) the carrier may deny coverage.
If you have questions about how to file a claim or wonder if you should file a claim feel free to call me at 708-444-0050. I normally recommend you obtain quotes for the damage(s) before you decide whether to file. It does not make sense to file a claim if the damages are less than or just over your deductible.
NOTE: The questions asked to me will not go on your record.
As a reminder, all home claims and at fault accidents are subject to the deductible. This means the carrier will collect the deductible before anything is paid out.