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When you’re a first time home buyer, you might be expecting the process to be more glamorous and exciting than it is in reality. Now, buying your first home is certainly an exciting event, but glamorous? Last time we checked, there wasn’t much glamor about paperwork… If you’re like most people, you will work with a mortgage lender to purchase your new home. Therefore process of closing on your home will involve an almost overwhelming amount of paperwork and finances, but this is a good thing. It ensures that your investment is made with all the right t’s crossed and i’s dotted. However there is one important thing you must do before you can close on your home, and that’s purchasing homeowners insurance.

Why Homeowners Insurance?

Would it surprise you to learn that purchasing homeowners insurance coverage is a requirement for closing on a home, if you finance through a lender? That’s right. Lenders require you to have home insurance for at least a year in order to allow you to close on your home. The thinking behind this is that by lending you the funds to buy a house, your lender needs an assurance from you that they are not going to suffer a huge loss if something happens to your new home. You see, that new home is an investment for both you and your lender, and when left uninsured, your home is a huge liability for your lender. This is why they usually will not agree to giving you a loan until you have proved that you have homeowners insurance in place.

What Will You Need to Bring?

It is common practice for lenders to ask you to bring your homeowners insurance binder with you to the closing meeting. The binder acts as definitive proof from your insurer that your home and its contents are covered under a policy. Some lenders may accept a photocopy of your insurance documents or a letter from your insurer.

How Do You Know Which Insurer to Choose?

This is where the assistance of an independent insurance agent is invaluable. Just like shopping around for a mortgage lender is a smart idea, shopping around for the best homeowners insurance is also a smart practice. But with your busy life, you probably don’t have time to shop the insurance market. Work with a dedicated independent insurance agent, and they will shop the market for you to find the best policy and most competitive rates.

School’s out, the sun’s out, and pretty soon you might be out of town! As you’re packing for your summer vacation, insurance is probably the last thing on your mind. You’re probably thinking about what clothes to bring, whether you need both your phone and tablet, or trying to dig out the snowboard you haven’t used in months. However as with every big moment in life, there are always insurance considerations to keep in mind.

Property Damage

This can come in two forms – damage or loss of your own property or damage to others property. In the first instance, the same homeowners or renters insurance that covers your personal property against theft, vandalism, or some acts of nature when you’re at home also covers your possessions you take with you on vacation. This is especially important for more expensive items such as electronics, jewelry, or even sporting equipment you take on vacation. On the flip side, this coverage also ensures you are safeguarded against any loss that happens to the property you left behind when you’re away from home. The important thing to note for this kind of coverage is that your policy must have certain limits of coverage in order to protect everything you want protected.

The other way in which your insurance can protect you in the case of property damage while you’re on vacation applies to the property of others. This is especially important if you’re renting a house or condo and end up breaking or damaging the property itself or something inside it. This type of coverage is called your personal liability policy, and if you cause damage in the place you’re vacationing, you may be covered by it.

Medical Emergencies

This one depends on where you are vacationing. In the case of medical emergencies inside the U.S., you should not encounter many obstacles regarding your insurance coverage extending to other in-network hospitals. You should expect to pay rates similar to what you’d pay at home. However, depending on your policy you may not be covered if you visit an out-of-network hospital in another city or state. It is best to know up front before you embark on your journey – for this you will speak to your insurance agent. You should also put “insurance card” on your packing list, if you don’t already carry it with you at all times (which you should!). Your home doctor may also offer “tele” services – meaning he or she can diagnose you over phone or video chat, and you get to stay in network no matter where you are in the country.

If you’re traveling out of the country, you may be surprised to learn that your coverage is more than you expected. Again, this is an instance in which it is most appropriate to speak to your agent before your trip to find out exactly what the out-of-pocket expenses would be for medical care abroad. Keep in mind this only applies to medical emergencies, not elective procedures.

The most important thing is to notify your insurance agent that you’ll be traveling, and to ask them if there are any updates needed to your policies. With an independent insurance agent on your side, you’ll have a friend to help you properly prepare for this exciting upcoming trip.

You purchase homeowners insurance to protect your greatest investment against damages that are out of your control. Most often, this means emergencies or acts of nature – forces you cannot control. What can you control? How you maintain your own home. This is why homeowners insurance is unlikely to cover claims you make that turn out to be due to wear and tear.

What Constitutes Wear and Tear?

Wear and tear is generally considered to be gradual damage that happens to a home over time, as the years and the elements take their toll. In some situations, wear and tear is unavoidable as a home ages. However to most insurers, there are certain failures and property damage that can be avoided if a homeowner performs the proper routine maintenance to their home. Common instances of wear and tear include roof leaks, slow leaking pipes, and mechanical breakdowns of appliances, among others.

Why Isn’t Wear and Tear Covered?

When homeowners adopt an insurance policy on their home, it is understood that there is an agreement between the homeowner and the insurer. This agreement asks that the homeowner keep up with regular, expected maintenance and repairs on their home, and the insurance will be there if an unexpected loss occurs. The insurer expects the homeowner to prevent any negligence that could cause property damage. The wear and tear exclusions arise from an understanding of the basic responsibilities of all homeowners. The exclusions keep insurers from being liable in situations where the damage is actually due to the insured’s failure to repair, replace, or maintain the aspects of their property that need work.

How to Avoid Claims That Get Denied

As far as wear and tear goes, it is pretty simple: maintain your home and do not delay if you notice an issue. If you notice a leak, do not wait a few months to report it to your insurance agent. This is the first thing you should do, and in the event that it’s not covered, get right to fixing the issue. Do not wait to tackle anything that needs repairing or replacing. Small fixes can seem like a large financial burden in the moment, but in the event of a large scale failure, you could be left responsible for a large bill of repairs if your insurance claim is denied due to evidence of wear and tear. In the case of mechanical breakdowns of appliances, you would be better off seeking coverage through a home warranty rather than home insurance, which will often exclude these appliances from coverage.

Utilize Your Resources

Your agent is available to answer any of your questions or concerns regarding coverage on your home and property. Give the Carnal Roberts Agency a call as soon as possible if you notice a concern in your home!

Spring break is known as a time for fun and relaxation. It’s a chance to get away from school (and work!) for a little while and spend time with the family. However the risks involved in taking a spring break trip cannot be ignored. This doesn’t mean you should spend the entire break keeping the family holed up at home, but it does mean you should pay attention to the following safety tips while on your trip.

Be Careful On the Road

Traffic sees a large increase during the spring break season. Be sure to drive the speed limit, make sure everyone is properly buckled in, and avoid distracted driving. Have the person in the passenger seat play the role of navigator so the driver is not constantly glancing at a phone or GPS. Local law enforcement will probably be increasing their rounds during this time, so it is especially important to obey traffic laws to stay safe and avoid violations – especially since this can raise your car insurance rates! For long trips in the car, you might want to consider adding roadside assistance coverage in case you experience any issues far from home.

Protect Your Valuables

While it’s true that renters and homeowners insurance policies can cover your valuables even if you bring them out of town with you, you still want to do everything you can to avoid filing a claim. Never leave them in plain sight in your car or hotel room. In fact, it’s a good idea to make use of the hotel safe, if available. Additionally, try not to bring high value items like jewelry, watches, and laptops or tablets. If you have to bring your valuables with you, be sure to check your limits of liability with your insurance agent before the trip to ensure you have all the coverage you need for the items you plan to take.

Refrain from Posting About the Trip on Social Media Until It’s Over

Many of our online “friends” might actually be more like casual acquaintances. You never know who could see your social media posts about being gone for spring break; anyone with bad intentions and your personal information could choose to take advantage of the situation. There have been numerous reports of homes being broken into after someone saw on social media that a family was away on vacation. Of course you want to share the amazing photos you’re taking and post updates on the fun times you’re enjoying, but it is safest to leave the posting for after you arrive back home.

Spring break is a wonderful time to get away from the everyday stresses of life. By following just a few simple safety precautions, you can keep your vacation from turning into a nightmare. Contact your agent at Carnal Roberts Agency to review the coverage that can protect you from the risks of traveling over spring break.

According to a study by the Insurance Information Institute, around one in 250 insured homes files a theft claim each year. Although this is not the most common claim, it is significant enough that insured homeowners should be looking into their options for getting the best home security. Technology is constantly changing and improving, and there are now some rather impressive and very effective systems available to protect your home and help you avoid property damage theft claims.

Smart Doorbells

This is not your average doorbell. A smart system features a camera that can show you who is outside your door – even if you are not home. Many smart doorbells also allow the homeowner to speak to doorbell-users via intercom. Since thieves will often ring doorbells to check if a home is occupied, being able to see and speak to any visitor, threatening or not, is an attractive security advantage. If you are able to respond to the potential thief, making them think you are home, they may well leave your house alone.

Smart Locks

In our modern age, no one should be leaving a spare key under a doormat or plant. These common hiding spots are the first place a burglar will look, and unless you check the spot every day your key could be stolen, copied, and returned without you ever knowing. A smart lock system gives you the ability to lock and unlock your exterior doors from anywhere at any time. Many systems allow you to check the status of your locks remotely, and some will alert you to any attempt to tamper with the lock. You can also create codes for people you need to let into your home. It is important to note that your smart lock system will need strong encryption and two-factor authentication (such as a passcode and a fingerprint) in order to be safe from hackers.

Video Monitor Systems

Similar to smart doorbells, a video monitoring system allows you to check up on your home even when you’re far away. However, these systems take the surveillance a step farther since they can monitor any areas of your home that you wish – your only limitation is where you can set up a camera! If you want to install cameras that will cover the entire perimeter of your home, you can do so, and you’ll be safer for it. Some video monitoring systems even allow users to set up virtual boundaries and the system will alert you if the boundary is breached.

Full-Service Security Companies

There are many companies, large and small, that offer full-service security systems. These companies will often install the system for you and take care of most of the monitoring themselves. If you don’t feel comfortable with the DIY approach to home security or are not able to access something like a smart doorbell camera from your cell phone, a full-service company may be a good option for you.

A Final Note

Oftentimes, insurance carriers will offer discounts on your monthly premium for a home that has security systems. You will need to make sure that the system you have or intend to purchase is eligible for a discount from your carrier. Give Carnal Roberts Agency a call to speak to your agent about this, and get on your way to saving money and staying safer.

You already know that marriage will change a lot of things in your life. When you say “I do” you are combining your entire world – and often your home – with someone else’s. Among the changes that come with married life are adjustments you should make to your insurance coverage.

Home & Property

If you and your spouse move in together after getting married, you will want to have both of your names listed on the policy to ensure you both benefit from its protection. In addition to this change, you should consider increasing or adjusting your personal property coverage. Even before the wedding, you will want to get the engagement ring covered. Even if you never take the ring off and have no chance of losing it, there is still a chance that stones could fall out. Over the course of your engagement and even after the wedding, you may also receive valuable gifts. Whether you live together prior to marriage or combine your households after, wedding gifts can increase the total value of your possessions and require updates to your personal property coverage.

Auto

Auto insurance can undergo some of the biggest changes for married couples. Studies have found that married people have fewer motor vehicle accidents and take fewer risks while driving. Your auto insurance rates may decrease significantly after you get married. However if one spouse has a poor driving record, combining policies may not be the best option. It is best to get your agent’s advice on this matter, since he or she will be in the best position to tell you how you and your spouse can benefit from policy changes.

Life

If you and your future spouse do not already have life insurance policies, the event of your marriage is a good reason to consider purchasing life insurance. After all, once the two become one, you will most likely come to reply on each other financially. If either of you already possesses life insurance, you may want to update your beneficiary information to include your new spouse. Younger couples may not believe they need life insurance, but this coverage is likely going to be the least expensive while you are young and healthy. Life insurance will help protect your new family from the unexpected for years to come.

Health

Marriage is one of the qualifying life events that allow you to make changes to your health insurance policy outside of open enrollment. Usually valid within 60 days of the wedding, you can change your policies or add your spouse to your plan. Even if both partners already have health insurance through your employers, it can be worth it to speak to your agent about whether your current health coverage has everything you need.

Last but not least, if you are changing your name after getting married, be sure to submit the change to your insurance company after finishing the legal side of the process! Marriage can be a wonderful thing, and when you have the proper insurance you are able to enjoy it even more fully. Let Carnal Roberts Insurance Agency help you get your new life started off right.