Fall is the time when coastal Texans bid goodbye to our storm season, and other parts of the country prepare for theirs! But although we do not usually get “winter storms”, there are still some commonsense things you can do to make sure your home is ready for the cooler months:
Take care of trees and shrubs: Falling tree limbs are one of the leading causes of damage to homes – and one of the main reasons for home insurance claims. Inspect your trees carefully for any signs of disease, and have a professional arborist prune any dead branches.
Clean gutters and downspouts: After the last of the leaves have fallen, be sure to remove them from roofs, gutters, and downspouts. Clogged gutters can cause rainwater to pool, and lead to roof or siding damage. Moreover, excess leaves constitute a fire hazard – insurance carriers will usually request that you remove the leaves if they inspect your home.
Make exterior repairs: Maybe it’s finally time to replace that roof or siding! It is also important to seal any gaps, to prevent rodents and other vermin entering the home as the weather cools. Thinking of moving your home to another insurance carrier? Be aware that insurance companies will conduct a home inspection, and can refuse to insure your home unless it’s in good condition and any necessary repairs are made.
Check safety devices: Test all your smoke alarms, and replace the batteries if necessary. Check the expiry dates on your fire extinguishers.
Clean dryer vents: Lint buildup in dryer vents not only makes your dryer less energy efficient, but can also cause a fire. If you don’t know how to remove the lint yourself, call a professional to give your vents the once-over and make sure you’re in good shape for the dry winter season.
Give Memorial Insurance Agency in Houston a call if you have any questions about your homeowners insurance!
In the insurance world, there is a surefire way to tell when a major storm is coming – and you don’t even need to look at the weather forecast! What happens is that insurance carriers issue a moratorium on binding new business policies when a storm or hurricane is 24-48 hours away from making landfall.
Why do insurance companies do this? In the same way that health insurance carriers exclude pre-existing conditions, property insurance carriers decline to insure buildings (and sometimes cars too) if the risk of loss is suddenly increased. This is understandable – otherwise, some people would only buy insurance at the last minute, when property damage from a storm or hurricane seems inevitable.
At the time of writing, many insurance carriers are not binding coverage due to the threat from Tropical Storm Imelda, which is currently deluging coastal Texas with rainfall. Thankfully, at this point, it’s not looking like becoming a major wind event, so the chance of you having to make a homeowners insurance claim is small. Flood insurance is another matter, and we recommend that every homeowner in the greater Houston area invests in this sensible – and usually inexpensive – coverage.
According to the FBI, a home break-in takes place every 13 seconds – and, contrary to popular belief, more than two-thirds of burglaries occur not at the dead of night but during the day, when homes are more likely to be unoccupied.
Criminals love an easy target, so making use of the following tips may encourage a burglar to target someone else and not you!
Install a home security system: A centrally monitored alarm is not only an effective deterrent, but also brings you discounts on your home insurance premiums. If you don’t want to fork out for a security service, consider “faking it” with an alarm company sign on your front lawn and dummy security cameras.
Lock doors and windows: An astonishing 79% of home break-ins occur through an unlocked door or window. It takes just seconds for an opportunist thief to walk in, grab some valuables, and make their escape. You should also close curtains and blinds, so would-be intruders cannot see inside and identify items worth stealing during a quick raid.
Get to know your neighbors: One of the best deterrents for thieves is a community where people keep an eye out for each other.
Don’t make things easy for thieves: Lock ladders and tools away. Remove items near the home, such as rocks, which could be used to break a window. Install strong doors with high-quality locks. Trim trees and shrubs near the house to eliminate hiding places.
Make it look like you’re home: Leave lights or a radio on when you go out. Better still, put lights on a timer to go on and off at random times.
Replace worn keypads: Have a keypad on your gate or garage? Be sure to change the code regularly, otherwise certain keys are likely to become worn which makes it a lot easier for thieves to guess your code.
Secure your passports, documents, jewelry and cash: The first place a burglar will look for these items is in the bedroom, so buy yourself some time by keeping these items in a locked box or a safe in another room.
And finally …. consider owning a dog for maximum deterrent value. Small dogs make a lot of noise and attract attention to an intruder, and if you have a big dog, may God help anyone who decides to gain unlawful entry to your home!
Did you know that one of the most common causes of expensive home insurance claims is entirely preventable? Read our handy tips here – and make sure you contact Memorial Insurance Agency in Houston to confirm that you have coverage for this common peril.
What has the team at Memorial Insurance Agency in Houston been doing recently?
Last week, we sponsored a fantastic Champagne Floats event for real estate professionals at Sweet Bribery in The Heights. It was great to see such a big turnout of realtors, mortgage brokers, and other people involved in the flourishing Houston real estate market.
Our team continues to go from strength to strength! The new arrivals on our production team, Shannon Broll and Kevin Feehery, are really proving their expertise when it comes to writing home insurance, auto insurance, and flood insurance policies. It’s great to have them both on board!
And finally ….. our customer service manager, Denise Martinez, is leading by example with her awesome service to her clients – check out this lovely, heartfelt thank you letter from one of her customers.
As the weather gears up for another long hot summer, it is easy to forget that a major hurricane could be just weeks away. That’s right, folks – June 1st was the official start to “Hurricane Season”!
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts a “near-normal” Atlantic hurricane season this year. But don’t be reassured by the word “normal” – it means that we can expect 9-15 named storms, 4-8 hurricanes with wind speeds up to 110mph, and 2-4 major hurricanes in category 3 and above with wind speeds over 111mph. There is no way of telling if or where these storms will make landfall. Before they arrive – in other words, right now! – it is a very good idea to not only check that your home insurance is in order, but also to follow some basic steps to prepare. Thanks to our friends and partners at http://velocityrisk.com/ for the following excellent tips!:
Create an emergency communication plan: Pre-arrange an evacuation route and destination with other members of your household, and be sure to know how to share warnings and alerts with your family members.
Stock up on emergency supplies: What you’ll need: lots of water, non-perishable foods, can opener, flashlight and spare batteries, battery-powered radio, first aid kit, whistle, plastic sheeting and duct tape, can opener, cell phone with chargers and a backup battery.
Check your home insurance: Make sure your home insurance policy covers damage caused by wind, hail, and named storms/hurricanes. Verify that you have low deductibles so your out-of-pocket costs in the event of a claim are low. Check that you have a Replacement Cost (not Actual Cash Value) policy. If in doubt …. speak to your friendly insurance agency in Houston, Memorial Insurance!
Consider buying flood insurance: Don’t wait until the next Hurricane Harvey is bearing down on you before you get flood insurance, because even if you buy it today, there is a 30-day waiting period before coverage takes effect. So plan ahead and get yourself covered BEFORE the next hurricane is on the horizon. And remember – flood insurance is NOT included in your home insurance policy!
Insurance carriers take hundreds of factors into consideration when calculating premiums. Here are the six things that make the biggest difference to your home insurance rate:
The location of your home: Texas is prone to hurricanes, and past events have shown insurers that homes close to the coast or to large bodies of water are more likely to incur losses. Consequently, these homes are more expensive to insure against weather-related perils. Some inland areas – particularly around Dallas/Fort Worth – regularly get devastating hailstorms, which have intensified in recent years, and have subsequently caused big premium increases in those areas. There are also less obvious factors at play, meaning that some zip codes are consistently more expensive for insurance than others, which is related to past losses in an area and the complicated algorithms that insurance companies use to determine risk.
The age of your home: The days of sturdy, stone-and-brick homesteads built to last hundreds of years are long gone. These days, the chance of something going wrong with your home starts to rise rapidly after about 10 years of age. Roofs become less weather-resistant and need replacing, plumbing and other internal systems are more likely to malfunction, and nearby trees grow larger and become more likely to topple onto your house. The equation is simple: older home = higher chance of a claim = more expensive insurance!
The age of your roof: Today’s shingle roofs are designed to last about 15-20 years. Insurance companies know this, and will therefore charge a higher premium for older roofs, offer an Actual Cash Value policy only, or even refuse to insure your home at all. Tile or metal roofs have longer lives, but the flip side for insurance companies is that they cost more to replace if destroyed by a hurricane.
Type of plumbing: Homes built before 1985 that have not been completely updated may still retain all or some of their original galvanized pipes. Statistically, these kinds of pipes are far more likely to corrode and develop leaks than modern PVC piping. If your home still has galvanized plumbing, you will have a smaller choice of insurance carriers, and premiums will be more expensive.
Your “insurance score”: Whenever you get a quote, insurance carriers run an “insurance score” on one or both applicants. This is a bit like a credit check and takes lots of factors into account, but it does not affect your credit score in the same way that a loan application does. If your insurance score is low, you could be paying more for the exact same policy than someone who has a high insurance score.
Prior claims: While there is some leniency towards weather claims (after all, a hurricane is not your fault!), insurance companies are wary of homeowners who have multiple claims on their record for things like water damage, theft, and – especially – liability. Any zero-paid-out claims (where the amount of the claim costs less than your deductible) can also hike your premium at renewal. So it’s best to make absolutely sure BEFORE you file a claim that it’s going to be worthwhile to do so – your agent will be able to advise you.
The golden rule is – as always – to give your agent a call! Memorial Insurance Agency’s licensed agents will be happy to provide you with a quote, help you to decide whether to file a claim, and answer any questions that you may have about insurance.
There are many different coverage options available in a home insurance policy. Which ones do you really need, and which ones can you go without? Let Memorial Insurance guide you through the small print!
Enough Coverage: As a rule of thumb, it will cost at least $100 per square foot to rebuild your home. So, if your home is 2,000 square feet, you will need an absolute minimum of $200,000 in coverage. If your home is custom built, or uses higher-than-average-quality materials, the replacement cost will be higher.
Replacement Cost: If the worst should happen, you want the insurance company to pay the full amount that it costs to rebuild your home and replace everything inside it. So the policy needs to state Replacement Cost, for the dwelling and the roof. This also applies to your Personal Property (coverage C) – otherwise you’ll get only Actual Cash Value for your belongings, which will be a lot less than the items will cost to replace.
High Liability Coverage Limits: The difference in premium between $25,000 and $300,000 in liability coverage is just a handful of dollars per year, so you should go for the highest available amount to make sure you are well protected if you are found legally responsible for someone else’s medical bills or lawyer’s fees.
Low Deductibles: The deductible is the amount of money you pay out of pocket before the insurance takes care of the rest. In a natural disaster-prone area such as Houston, insurance claims due to weather events are common, so it makes sense to have low deductibles. Standard in this area for good policies is a 2% deductible for wind, hail, and hurricane, and 1% for all other perils. 1%/1% is also available in many areas away from the coast.
Water Coverages: These include water backup, slow seepage, and foundation coverage, and are included as standard on an HOB policy form but have to be added (“endorsed”) to other kinds of policies. They are generally inexpensive to add, but give you protection against very expensive potential losses.
“Actual Cash Value”: Some insurance carriers (including several very well known household names) depreciate your roof. In other words, you’ll receive less from the insurance company than the amount it will cost to replace your roof, and the potential payout shrinks every year as your roof ages. If your roof is 10 years old and you have an Actual Cash Value policy, you’ll receive next to nothing for your roof claim – or even nothing at all, after your deductible is taken into account. Also see above for what Actual Cash Value means for your personal property.
Personal Injury Coverage: This sounds great until you realize that it does NOT mean physical injury to a person. “Personal Injury” is coverage for slander, libel, and other lawsuits that most homeowners will be very unlikely to face. In other words, with this one you’re paying extra for something you don’t need. Tricky agents love to add this to a policy because it sounds like it offers a lot of coverage.
Extended Replacement Cost: If your home is insured for $200,000, and you have 25% extended replacement cost coverage, this does not mean you will receive $250,000 from the insurance if your home burns to the ground. Extended replacement cost only applies if an entire area is affected (for example by a major hurricane) and the ensuing demand drives up the cost of labor and building materials, so your home costs more to rebuild at that particular time than it normally would. Adding extended replacement cost is a devious way that agents “add coverage” without actually giving you the correct protection. If your home is going to cost $250,000 to replace, opt instead for that full amount of coverage under the “dwelling A” section of your policy.
Identity Theft: This is one of a number of optional endorsements available on a home insurance policy. If you want this kind of coverage, it is best to buy a specific policy and not mix it in with the homeowners insurance. Otherwise, you might find you are having to make an identity theft claim under your home insurance which can potentially increase your premium on renewal.
Wind/Hail/Hurricane Exclusion: If you live in a coastal area (Galveston, Brazoria, and some parts of Harris) and you receive a home insurance quote that looks too good to be true, then it probably is! Some companies won’t insure your home in these areas unless windstorm coverage is excluded, due to the high risk of hurricanes. So while you’ll be covered for fire, lightning, vandalism and malicious mischief, you’ll be getting zilch from your insurance if the next Category 4 takes your roof with it. Thankfully, Memorial Insurance has many options for coastal homes, including specialist companies that do include wind in high risk areas, as well as standalone windstorm policy options.
If you have any questions, give your agent at Memorial Insurance a call and we’d be happy to explain further!
Ever had something like this through the mail? Most likely you receive several of them every year in the lead-up to your home insurance renewal. They may sound tempting …. but how do you know if it’s a good quote? What should you be looking for? Let Memorial Insurance be your guide!:
Coverage amounts: Do these match your current policy? They are often lower, because less coverage means a cheaper price. Your agent has several tools available to work out exactly how much your home should be insured for.
Bells and Whistles: On this quote, $1,000,000 in personal liability is eye-catching, especially if your current policy offers “only” $300,000 or $500,000. But if you have an umbrella policy (which you should!), you’ll already have the high liability coverage anyway. And if you want to add higher liability to a homeowners policy, it’s only going to cost a few bucks a year. So this feature is not nearly as impressive as it sounds!
Extended Replacement Cost: Some agents offer relatively low dwelling coverage amounts, but add the extended replacement cost endorsement and tell you it’s additional coverage for your home. This is not true. Extended replacement cost applies when a large area is afflicted by a catastrophe (for example a Category 4 hurricane), and the subsequent increased demand for materials and contractors pushes repair costs sky-high. This endorsement allows for extra coverage but ONLY in the event that replacement cost increases in your area as a direct result of a natural disaster. If faulty wiring causes your house to burn to the ground, you’ll get only your basic Dwelling Coverage amount from your insurance company.
Deductibles: This quote headlines with the 1% deductible, but notice the cheeky 5% deductible in the middle? This part is the deductible for a named hurricane. If you keep in mind that named hurricanes are one of the leading causes of insurance claims in many states, including Texas, do you really want to be on the hook for a 5% deductible the next time a major weather event blows through? In the case of this particular policy, you’d be looking at a $30,000+ out of pocket payment before the insurance company stepped in to take care of the rest. If this is something you can afford and would be happy to pay for, then stop reading here! In Houston, a 2% hurricane deductible is standard, with 1% also available in some areas. At Memorial Insurance, we’d be happy to provide several quotes with different deductibles so you can make an informed choice and NOT get a nasty surprise after the next hurricane.
Total Premium: The advertised rate on this quote is NOT the final price, it is a guess based on you having the best possible credit and zero prior claims. To get the final rate, insurance carriers run an “insurance score” taking into account the above plus many other factors. More than nine times out of ten, when you call the agent to take the quote, your premium will increase.
Exclusions: Sure, this quote tells you that your contents are insured for replacement cost. But how about the roof? See my earlier blog post for details of why you do NOT want an Actual Cash Value (ACV) policy. Moreover, are water coverages (slow seepage, water backup, foundation water damage) included? Most likely not, because these increase the premium, which would make for a less impressive mailout!
Moral of the story: if you’re interested in a quote you receive in the mail, make sure you get an “apples to apples” comparison with your current policy to make sure all the coverage levels match. Better still, why not give Memorial Insurance a call – we have most of the main home insurance carriers in our agency, so we will do the shopping and comparing for you, and make 100% sure you are correctly insured!