Consumer Advice

How Do You Know If Your Insurance Company Is Great?

I recently read an article regarding the difference between a good insurance company and a great one.

While getting the right amount of coverage is really critical, it’s also important that you know that you are doing business with the right carrier.

Check to make sure the company is licensed in the state. While insurance companies have different entity names, do business with companies that are licensed to do business in the state. You can check the state’s insurance licensing website, which will have a list of all the companies. If they are licensed and in good standing, this allows you to get help from the state insurance department if you are having problems.

Check to make sure they are financially healthy. A company that is in poor financial shape may not have enough money to pay your claim…or they might try to negotiate lesser coverage when it comes time to cut a check. Here are several websites you can visit to check on their financial health. It is suggested that you check at two of them.

Check the number of complaints. Again, the state’s insurance department should provide you with the number of justified (keyword: justified) complaints from consumers. The report gives you a “complaint ratio”, meaning it compares the number of justified complaints to the total number of insurance complaints in the state. You can also find that ratio at www.NAIC.org, The National Association of Insurance Commissioners website. Look for a low complaint ratio.

Check their response time. If you find yourself holding on the phone for a long period of time. If you don’t receive timely call backs. Or if the explanations of coverage are confusing to you, it’s a good indication that you will have similar problems when it’s time to file a claim.

If you are looking to buy insurance or change insurance companies, please contact me because I know many great insurance agents for you to check out.

Consumer Advice

Protect Your Home

Fifty-six percent of consumers recently surveyed believe that a standard homeowner’s policy covers flood damage. But they’re mistaken, and their assumption could be a costly mistake. The survey by insuranceQuotes of about 1,000 consumers shows a lot of misunderstandings when it comes to home insurance and what’s covered and what’s not. “Being misinformed about your home policy can be an extremely expensive mistake—especially when a few inches of water in a 1,000 square-foot home can easily cost over $10,000 in repairs,” says Laura Adams, senior insurance analyst at insuranceQuotes. “There are a number of widespread myths ranging from coverage for dog bites to items stolen from your car that frequently trip up policyholders.” Consumers tend to overestimate the amount of coverage they have when it comes to flooding protection, according to the study.

Further, 81 percent of survey respondents knew that valuables stolen from their home were covered under most standard homeowner’s policies, yet only 28 percent knew that renter’s insurance would cover valuables stolen from their cars. “It’s critical for consumers to thoroughly explore their options and really understand the protections that are included or excluded with a standard renter’s or home insurance policy,” says Adams. “Don’t wait until right before a big storm is headed your way to get coverage because there may be a waiting period.”

Source: REALTOR® Magazine

 

Consumer Advice, Realtor Advice

The Different Levels of Homeowner’s Insurance: What You Need to Know

homeowners-insuranceMost standard homeowner’s insurance policies cover damage to your home from theft, fire, lightning, smoke, frozen pipes, ice or certain types of weather damage. It usually covers you up to a certain dollar amount if someone is injured on your property and decides to sue you.

But, did you know that there are many “levels” and “types” of homeowners insurance? Here are your options:

  • HO1: It’s the most basic with limited coverage. It’s also the cheapest, but if you have a mortgage, most mortgage companies won’t accept the limited coverage because it hardly covers anything.
  • HO2: Has a lot more coverage than HO1, but still limited reimbursement if you experience a loss.
  • HO3: This is the most popular with almost 80% of the homeowners’ policies sold today. This option covers “all perils and all risks” except those that are “excluded” in the addendum.
  • HO4: This is a “renter’s” policy and it protects the possessions of tenants living in the home against loss. It usually includes medical and liability coverage for the renter. So if you own a rental property, you may want to advise your tenants about this option.
  • HO6: This policy is for those who live in condos. It not only provides for personal property, liability and medical expenses, it covers the inside walls of your unit—which you own.
  • HO8: This is for older homes and is similar to HO1. The difference is that it will reimburse the actual cash value of the home.

If you’d like to compare coverage and premium amounts, please let me know and I can refer you to a couple of insurance agents that I know and trust.

Realtor Advice

5 Ways Real Estate Agents Can Avoid Getting Sued

I’m not an attorney, nor do I play one on TV, but I read an article recently that I thought you would be interested in, and I would like to share with you the 5 Ways Real Estate Agents Can Avoid Getting Sued. It’s not so much about “contract laws”; it has more to do with risks and liabilities that can be a pain to deal with—and perhaps involve a law suit—regardless if you are to blame (or not).

Giving Advice — Or Not Giving Advice: Have you ever had a client tell you that they don’t want a home inspection? Or waive a clause on a purchase contract? You could be held liable if you don’t strongly advise your client about the possibilities of what could go wrong. Insist that your clients sign waivers acknowledging their decision, and add a “hold harmless” clause to the waiver. And to protect yourself even further, consider buying “errors & omissions” insurance, which will pay your court expenses if a client decides to sue you.

People Stealing Things During Showings/Open House: Showings and open houses give thieves an opportunity to steal items from the home—including keys that could allow them to break into the home later. Attorneys suggest that you create an “open house” checklist for your clients to follow. Include a “hold harmless” clause in your listing contacts. You also may want to tell them to get in touch with their insurance company, letting them know that the home has been listed and see if there is any extra coverage they might need during the listing time period.

Your Car and Auto Insurance: If you drive a car to show property (that you personally own), your current auto insurance coverage may not cover accidents while using the car for business purposes. Check into “hired” auto insurance, which is a supplement to your personal auto insurance coverage.

Slipping and Falling Mishaps: When it rains or there is ice on the sidewalks and driveways, if really not your responsibility when it comes to showings or open houses. However, if people slip and fall, they are looking for someone to sue, you may be one of the people named in a lawsuit. Review your General Liability insurance and make sure you are covered.

Keeping Data Safe and Private: Protect your files from hackers and identity thieves by having security software and secure files to ensure that your client’s info is safe. It’s suggested that you have a policy in place (even if your company has one) and install anti-virus software on your computer. Change your passwords on a regular basis. Encrypt the data. Use back-up storage. Limit the number of people who can access files. Yes, there is such a thing as cyber-liability insurance if you are hacked.

Check the Board of Realtors® and see if they offer a class on this topic. One law suit (whether it’s your fault or not) can ruin your career and reputation.