Fun – Homeowners Insurance Tips and News Fri, 28 Jun 2013 15:01:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 8 Apps for Decorating Your Stylish Home Mon, 18 Jun 2012 14:30:42 +0000 Decorating your home can be a challenge when you constantly have to measure things, collect paint and fabric swatches, and compare furniture pieces in your head. However, with the right apps aiding your home decor ventures, you can have beautiful design right at your fingertips. Apps make decorating substantially easier, as they can store a great deal of information into a tiny piece of software. With the right apps, not only can you design your ideal room right on your phone, but you can also buy home furnishing products with a single click.

  1. Design Master

    Design Master is specifically formulated for your iPad, as it would be too difficult to navigate on an iPhone, and is extremely helpful if you can’t easily visualize what a piece of furniture might look like in your room. Simply snap a photo of your room using your iPad’s camera or choose a pre-existing photo from your library and then add items on top of the photo, choosing decor and other items from a catalogue within the app. You can resize and change the colors of furniture as you place them in the room as needed. You can also rotate them for different views. After completing your room, you can save it to your library for easy reference or email it to a friend. The app comes in three different versions depending on your designing needs — interior, hospitality, and exterior. The hospitality app works best for designers planning an event, with items like podiums and clothed tables in its inventory. Interior and exterior are self-explanatory, and both can be useful for home furnishing. Each version costs $9.99.

  2. Color Capture

    The Color Capture app by Benjamin Moore allows you to take a photo of anything using your phone or tablet and match it to corresponding paint chips from Benjamin Moore’s extensive library. You can then locate Benjamin Moore retailers in your area from within the app. The app is especially useful if you’re trying to develop a specific color palette in a room. You may get inspiration from a color combination you see in nature, and the app allows you to capture that moment and take it to your walls and furnishings. You can also add notes concerning your findings. The app is free and distributed both for Apple and Android products.

  3. MySurface

    Corian and Zodiaq produce different kinds of surfaces for homes, such as marble, granite, and tile. With the MySurface app, you can browse through the entire catalogue of surfaces from Corian and Zodiaq and save swatches of your favorites for quick reference. This makes it simple when you are discussing surface options with your decorator, or client if you happen to be an interior designer yourself. The photos used for surfaces are high-definition and you can hold them up to a surface to visualize what it might look like with a particular stone or tile. You can also browse through a gallery of furniture with different surface treatments for inspiration. The app is free for the iPhone or iPad.

  4. Remodelista

    If you can’t seem to find that perfect light fixture for your kitchen, browse the Remodelista app for ideas. Remodelista is constantly updated to bring you the newest trends in design products for your home. You can search by the room — kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, you name it — and browse the ever-expanding list of top-of-the-line products. The app also has DIY instructions for projects. Browse through images of furnished rooms and click “steal this look” for broken down pricing and retail information on various items. The app does product roundups on a regular basis. Save your favorite items to customizable folders for individual projects as you see fit. If you fall in love with a product, you can click “Buy Now” to purchase it directly from your phone or tablet. The full Remodelista app costs $2.99, but also comes in a lite version for free.

  5. Photo Measures

    The Photo Measures app by Big Blue Pixel allows you to photograph a room and input different dimensions for furniture, walls, and other objects in your virtual blueprint. You draw straight onto the photo and then add in the numerical values as measured out by hand. Measurements can be saved in imperial or metric units and the app intuitively recognizes angles. A high resolution copy of the photo can be exported to email to print out a hard copy. The app is a must for anyone trying to figure out if a specific piece of furniture will fit in a room before purchasing it. Given that you’ll have your exact measurements at hand on the go, you can claim that IKEA desk without worrying that it’ll be a tight squeeze next to your couch. The app costs $4.99, unless you purchase the free lite version.

  6. iHandy Level

    The iHandy Level from iHandy Inc. is a functioning level that you can use right from your iPhone. Like any level, you place the iPhone on a surface and it determines whether the surface is straight or slanted. However, the app is not only functional, but aesthetically pleasing, with a wood grain background and lighting effects. Plus, it’s absolutely free. The iHandy Level is the perfect solution for aligning artwork on your wall. It calibrates with a variety of surfaces, detecting verticality, angle measurement, incline, and roof pitch calculation.

  7. Pinterest

    You are probably more than acquainted with Pinterest already, but it can be a great website for getting decorating ideas. The Pinterest app is suitable for your iPhone and works almost identically to the website, in which you browse, favorite, and pin your own items to customizable boards. You can also take photos with your iPhone camera and pin them to Pinterest. If you’re looking for a specific decorating item, you can use the keyword search to narrow down the results. Pinterest also offers some of the best DIY ideas on the web.

  8. Mark On Call

    The Mark On Call app comes in two different versions depending on whether you intend to use it on your iPhone or on your iPad, but both are great resources for anyone taking on the challenge of interior design. Created by interior designer Mark Lewison, the app helps you conceive and carry out any design you please. You can map out a design of an existing room or an imaginary room, add dimensions to furniture using a crosshair cursor, and add “skin” surface textures onto things to see what something would like with a particular surface. You can create shopping lists of various items you’ll need to bring your room to life. You can also see how your interior design measures up by applying Mark’s Ten Commandments of Interior Design to a room. Both the iPhone and the iPad version are sold for $1.99 in the iTunes store.

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10 Historic Treasures Discovered in Old Homes Thu, 07 Jun 2012 21:49:23 +0000 Historians may think of America as a fairly young country, but that doesn’t mean they don’t get excited when artifacts from America’s past resurface. Some artifacts are dug up by archeologists at sites suspected of having items of value. However, other items are found right in the homes of American citizens, waiting to be unearthed. Occasionally, such items show up when people are simply looking for something in their attic. Beneath the dust and moth balls may be something of particular value, worthy of display in museums.


  1. Slave Artifacts in Maryland

    An Annapolis house was entirely stripped after its previous tenant passed away to uncover artifacts dating back to the 18th century. According to the New York Times, archeologists found objects in what would have been the slave quarters of the house, in the Northeast corners of the rooms beneath the bricks. They uncovered a mishmash of objects including brass pins, buttons and beads, rock crystals, a piece of a crab claw, disks pierced with holes, a brass ring and bell, pieces of glass and bone, and the arms and legs of a small doll. They believe these items were used in African rituals, which slaves still clung to as part of their historical past. The ritual is likely for healing and good fortune, in which the slaves put together a collection of items with sentimental value, collectively called nkisi.


  3. The Turner House

    Corey Sipe, a contributor to Yahoo! Voices, wrote an article about Issac Ruiz and Virginia Carmany, who own an 18th century home in Chester, Connecticut known as the Turner House. After the couple bought the home in 1999, they set to work restoring it, revealing historical items from the house’s past. Initially, Ruiz entered the home’s crawl space after his cat went missing, and was shocked to find all kinds of items dating back as far as 1890. Carmany described some of the items as a tobacco can, an 1885 glass bottle, horseshoes, canned meats, canned spices, powders, and sassafras. They found glass prescription bottles with “Williams and Carlton, Hartford, Conn.” marked on the side. The myriad of items have helped the couple unveil some details as to the original owners’ lives, as well as subsequent owners down the line.


  5. Outhouse Treasures

    Huffington Post covered a story about archeologist Rebecca Schwendler in Lafayette, Colorado who discovered more than 100 artifacts underneath the old outhouse outside of her home. Schwendler noted that she found curious items such as Model-T parts, syringes used for injecting opiates, prohibition-era alcohol bottles, and Edison light bulbs. She bought the home knowing that it would be ripe with artifacts, and had already suspected that the outhouse would bear its own treasures, because people used to throw things down the hole that they didn’t want others to see. Her collection of items span from the Victorian era, to items from World War I, to items as early as the 1950s.


  7. Eustis Home Antiques

    An abandoned home in Eustis, Florida known as the old Allen Drive house, was left to neglect and deterioration until historian Louise Carter found antiques dating back as far as the late 1800s. The items, which will be preserved at the Eustis Historical Museum and Preservation Society, include a wooden tool chest from 1898, an antique clock, a quilt, ceramic crocks, a flat iron, a hack saw from 1910, and patches, artillery medals, and coins and paper money from World War II. The house itself belonged to the city after previous owners died or walked away from it years back and was in poor shape.


  9. Buck-Chambers House

    In an article posted to the Washington College website, a local house dating back to 1735 in Chestertown, Maryland was being renovated when various historical treasures were discovered. The C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience began cataloging their findings for the Washington College Archaeology Lab. They hope to display them at the school. Among their findings were post cards from 1915, an 18th century handwritten letter, The Frankford Dispatch newspaper from March 17, 1905, a copper cent from the 1830s, a children’s book from 1848, and early clay pipe stems from the 18th and 19th century.


  11. Liberace Artifacts in California

    While it may not be historical in a textbook sense, Liberace still has pop cultural value. Thus, when a San Diego woman found 80 boxes of Liberace’s things in her attic she sent them to New York to be auctioned off to the highest bidder, according to a The New York Times article. The owner of the home, Helen Meyers, was friends with Liberace and his lover, and had boxes with characteristically flamboyant items such as bejeweled bowties, outfits for his dog, a miniature silver piano, excerpts from his in-the-works memoir, and tabloids pertaining to lawsuits. Some of the items were gifts from Sammy Davis Jr. and Boy George. There were also boxes containing Liberace’s aprons with cooking stains still on them.


  13. Italian Artifacts in Berwyn

    A house in Berwyn, Illinois was found to be brimming with Italian artifacts. The Chicagoist details the incredible findings of 3,500 different items in the home previously belonging to John Sisto. Some of the most striking items include ancient terracotta figurines, letters from popes, and a handwritten manuscript by Benito Mussolini. Federal authorities believe that at least 1,600 of these items were stolen from Italy to be sold in the United States. The items are to be shipped back to Italy, and while the United States officials are withholding any charges against the remaining Sisto family, Italian authorities may take their own action. The oldest of the artifacts date back to the 4th Century BC.


  15. Indian Artifacts in Canton

    An article for the Hartford Courant describes Canton native Tim Dyer’s remarkable discovery when he went to clean out his mother’s attic after she passed away. Dyer found dozens of arrowheads and other Native American artifacts in a cardboard box in the attic. He identified them as belonging to his grandfather, Thomas C. Dyer Senior, who collected them growing up. When the artifacts were donated to the Canton Historical Museum, Dyer found out that his grandfather’s collection dates back 1,000 to 4,000 years ago. Many of the spearheads come from the Archaic Period. There were also axes, adzes, hide scrapers, and stones used to grind nuts.


  17. Painting in the Attic

    According to the Marietta Times, John Buell was merely nosing around his grandfather’s attic in Weston, West Virginia when he found a large, dust-covered painting. Upon asking his grandmother, she said the painting had been in the family since the 1930s. As it turns out, the painting was “The Battle of San Jacinto,” a famous 1901 painting that had been missing for close to a century. Buell’s great-great-grandfather, Henry Arthur McArdle, painted the piece as a commission a few years after he painted a mural of the same scenario for a wall in the State Senate Chamber of the Texas Capitol building. He kept the painting for himself when the patron who commissioned him failed to pay full price for his work.


  19. Historic Documents in Chicago

    NPR recalls when Rufus McDonald, head of a demolition crew, stopped his men from destroying a chest they found in an abandoned Chicago home that was to be torn down. The chest contained documents, books, and photographs belonging to Richard Theodore Greener, the first African-American to graduate from Harvard University. McDonald found Greener’s diploma and law license in the trunk. The black scholar graduated in 1870 and went on to teach at University of South Carolina. Later, he became dean of Howard University’s law school and served as a diplomat in Russia. Greener was a premier figure in the United States representing race relations. McDonald has yet to let go of his findings until he finds someone willing to pay a respectable amount for the collection.

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7 Bizarre Designer Showers for Your Modern Home Wed, 30 May 2012 16:04:58 +0000 To some, the shower may be a 10-minute solution to personal hygiene, as a means to start off the day. To others, a shower is a relaxing experience worthy of its amenities. For the latter crowd, these over-the-top designer showers may be for you. With sleek interfaces, multiple functionalities, and a hefty price tag, designer showers take the mundane idea of a shower head and stall and turn it into a port of luxury. Complete your contemporary home with one of these testaments to modern design.


  1. The Egg Shower

    The Egg Shower by Arina Komarova is a stall shower shaped like an egg that completely cocoons you inside its walls. Once sealed off, the Egg Shower can be enabled as either a bath or typical shower. The showerhead is “rain style,” located on the ceiling of the structure. The bath feature has jacuzzi jets and hydro massage. Mood lighting can be implemented as well. The glass panels can be removed to have a more open air shower experience as well. Sadly, the Egg Shower is still just a design concept, but it may be an idea as to the future of shower installation.


  3. The Dyno

    The Dyno, by Moredesign, is a designer shower with the option for solar-activation. The shower has a patented system built in that reduces the amount of harmful bacteria that grow in your shower, enabling a cleaner, contaminate-free experience. It comes in a wide variety of colors and can be installed indoors as your regular shower or outdoors beside the pool. As a poolside shower, use it to rinse off dirt before entering the pool or to rinse off chlorine after a swim. The drip-free showerhead is complete with a system that enables you to save 50% of water normally used for a shower. The base is designed to easily keep sand out of the foot area.


  5. The Sunshower

    The ProSun Sunshower enables you to tan your body while completing your daily showering ritual. Much like a regular tanning bed, the shower has a built in UV light spectrum that mimics a real sun, but it is much gentler so that it is less harmful to the skin than some highly concentrated tanning beds can be. The shower helps dose your body with vitamin D, which is helpful for mood and enabling the production of calcium and phosphorus in the body. The UV component can be adjusted for timing and intensity, depending on the person’s individual skin type and sensitivity.


  7. The Omega

    Pininfarina’s Omega shower is a highly contemporary cubicle shower. A teak wood seat provides ergonomical support. A steam shower may be activated to open the pores and detoxify. There is also a vertical hydro massage. Not only can showering be accomplished with a handheld shower head and a overhead raindrop shower head, but there is also a waterfall shower head. You may also use the shower for aromatherapy by adding essential oil to a built-in tray beside the steaming nozzle. Pininfarina also designs Italian luxury cars, and the shower’s design mimics the sleek aesthetic of a sport car.


  9. The Loop

    The Italian design firm Idiha designed the Loop shower, which is a giant, ceramic loop structure with jets built in to the sides so that it can propel water at you from all directions. A single shower head is installed in the top of the loop while nozzles on the sides of the structure are aimed strategically at your upper and lower body so that complete water immersion is possible while standing. The multi-sensory system is meant to be therapeutic, and the shower was designed to be adaptable for indoors or outdoors. The loop has interior mood lighting which emits a soft, pink glow.


  11. Roca Active & Relax Bathroom

    Modern design is all about the marriage between form and function, and it’s even better when there are multiple functions involved. Michal Mitek has designed an entire bathroom space that duels as a personal gym. In the center of the room, a shower head can be found that emits from the ceiling. The floorboards below drain the water into the sunken bath, which can be accessed by peeling back the wooden boards. One of the bathroom walls is covered entirely by an LCD screen, which can show videos that simulate panoramic views of your choice as well as any other video you deem worthy. And if you close the floorboards back up, the space can be used for exercise. Simply pop in your favorite aerobics video to display on the LCD screen wall.


  13. The Horizontal

    For mornings when you find yourself nodding off in the shower, the Horizontal is for you. Designed by Dornbracht, the Horizontal is precisely as it sounds — a shower made for lying down. The shower features a large, stone slab that the user lays down on, while a line of shower bars spray water down from above all along the slab. The temperature and water pressure for each showerhead are entirely customizable, allowing for total comfort and relaxation. The shower bars come with pre-programmed choreographies as well, and much like the fountains at the Bellagio hotel, can be activated and turned off at varying patterns. Some of the presets include “Balancing”, “Energizing”, and “De-Stressing.”

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8 Movies with Truly Magical Houses Fri, 20 Apr 2012 19:48:41 +0000 8 Movies with Truly Magical Houses

There is something incredibly intriguing about a magical house. Even haunted houses pique human interest time and time again. We can easily let our imaginations soar, visualizing worlds that exist beyond special doors, bookcases that act as trap doors, and outdoor gardens that house enchanted fairies. The theme of a home with magical elements pops up regularly in fantasy and sci-fi literature and film. Perhaps we continue to recreate this idea because we are charmed by the thought that our common lives could secretly host something greater, more exciting, and much more magical. The following list has been compiled to illuminate eight films that involve enchanted houses, stirring up our love for divination around the household.

  1. Howl’s Moving Castle

    The house featured in Hayao Miyazaki’s masterpiece of a film, Howl’s Moving Castle, is just as it sounds: a moving castle. The clumsy, banged together conglomeration of stone, wood, and steel meanders across the countryside using magic. It seems to walk as if it is a creature of its own biding, but it has been bewitched to do so by Howl himself. Others cannot see the castle as it has invisible properties. The interior of the castle is not as expansive as it seems from the outside, and merely looks like a charming bungalow. It is said to be the demon spirit Calcifer’s home, and he lingers in the fireplace with small flames when he is sad or weak and large flames in moments of strength. There is one door within the house that appears to be able to open up to various places, regardless of their proximity to them. Lastly, the castle is able to grow and shrink according to Calcifer’s size in the fire hearth. For example, towards the end of the film, Calcifer is reduced to a mere ember and the castle has shrunken down to a platform of teetering wood on a single wheel.

  2. Coraline

    Coraline is a clay, stop-animation film adapted from the novel by Neil Gaiman. In the story, the young girl, Coraline, finds a mysterious door in her new home that leads down a winding tunnel. At the end of that tunnel, Coraline re-emerges into her home, but it is a peculiar, idealized version of its former self. In this alternate universe, Coraline’s parents are strangely indulgent, feeding her rich, tasty meals with desserts and showering her with praises. Coraline is endeared towards this alternate universe, but wakes up in her own room, in the boring, dim life she knows outside of the magical door. The following night, she crawls back into the mirrored life beyond the door, but begins to realize that it has sinister components. For example, everyone in the alternate universe has buttons for eyes, and her mother wants to replace her human eyes with buttons. Likewise, her friend Wybie has had his mouth sewn shut, as Coraline’s “other mother” found him to be an annoyance when he spoke. The more we see the alternate world, the more we realize the door in Coraline’s home leading to it was locked for a good reason. The home is completely normal save for the doorway leading to the “other home,” but this doorway guides the entire magical element of the story itself.

  3. The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe

    In the first film of The Chronicles of Narnia series adapted from the popular books, we are introduced to Narnia through a peculiar doorway. The children are staying at Professor Kirke’s house, a large, dusty sort of mansion, in which they are instructed not to touch anything. Plagued by boredom, the children engage in a game of hide-and-seek, which is when Lucy discovers a wardrobe. As she recedes into the fur coats in an attempt to hide in the back of the wardrobe, she feels a chill, takes one more step back, and is suddenly in a thick, wooded forest covered in snow. It appears that Narnia is accessed through the back of the wardrobe. Narnia itself is full of mythical beasts, talking animals, witches, and magic alike. In the first film, it is in a state of perpetual winter because the White Witch has bewitched it to do so. Time in Narnia is vastly different from the real world; while the children stay in Narnia for a length of 15 years for their most important adventure, it calculates to only a few seconds in earth time.

  4. Monster House

    The film Monster House is a computer animated feature about 12-year-old DJ who lives next door to a crotchety old man, Mr. Nebbercracker. Nebbercracker’s house is the magical element of the film, as it consumes anyone or anything that comes too close to it. Growing up, the children in the neighborhood think Nebbercracker merely hates children and loves to pluck their belongings off of his lawn. For example, if a kite flies that way, he will snatch it up before the owner can retrieve it. In truth, Nebbercracker is trying to protect people from his house, which is very much alive and possessed by the spirit of his wife. It has eaten several people who, at the end of the movie, are set free from the basement dwellings of the house. The house extends a Persian rug from its interior several times, which acts as its tongue. The house even has a uvula, which takes the shape of a glowing lamp that the children grab onto to make it vomit them out at one point.

  5. Amityville Horror

    The Lutz family moves into the infamous house on 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, New York a little more than a year after a gruesome murder was committed there. The previous family that lived in the house was entirely slaughtered — six of them died leaving only the son, who committed the murders, alive. The Lutzs move into the house knowing full well of its history, and are unfazed by it until strange things begin to happen to them. Not only does the house appear to be haunted, but they become increasingly convinced that it was the house itself that drove the eldest son, Ronald Defeo, to kill his entire family. It seems the house has a demonic presence, possessed by the devil. Indeed, when a priest comes to bless the house, he is expelled from the home with his hands covered in blisters. Likewise, a hoard of flies attacks the family at an unseasonable time of year for flies, which has biblical connotations to the evil swarm of locusts mentioned in The Book of Revelation.

  6. Zathura

    It may not be the house itself that is magical, but the house in Zathura is certainly under a magical influence as it floats in space on a supporting rock structure. In this children’s science fiction film based on the illustrated book of the same name, brothers Walter and Danny and their sister Lisa discover a board game in the basement that, when played, lunges their spaceship of a home closer and closer to the destination of the planet Zathura. Try as they might, they cannot get their house to return to Earth until the game is complete. Amidst the horrors of the game, they must avoid ill-willed space creatures, befriend an astronaut who, coincidentally, is stuck in the game from when he played it decades ago, and Walter and Danny must overcome their hatred for each other as brothers. Once they finally reach Zathura, it turns out to be a black hole which navigates the house back to Earth unscathed.

  7. Beauty and the Beast

    In this Disney tale based off of the traditional fairytale, an old woman made to look like a beggar approaches the prince’s castle, where she pleads for a night’s respite in exchange for a single, red rose. The prince callously turns her away, and the old woman removes her guise to show that she is in fact an enchantress, who then turns the prince into a beast and all of his court into various household items. The beast has until his 21st birthday, which is also when the rose will wilt completely, to break the curse. To break the curse, he must love someone who reciprocates his own love. The castle is magical because of the enchantress’ curse, as the maids and butlers are transformed into talking candles and teapots. The concierge is turned into a clock, the chef becomes the castle’s stove, and even the castle’s pet dog is transformed into a tasseled footstool. Likewise, there is the highly protected rose, encased in glass, which counts down the days until the beast must accept his fate as a beast eternally, lest he find his true, reciprocated love.

  8. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

    Twelve Grimmauld Place is the house shown in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. It belongs to the Black family, and is invisible to muggles who merely see a skip between houses 11 and 13. It is located in London and is encased by the Fidelius Charm, which means that even wizards who know its approximate location are still unable to see it because it is protected. True to form of the rest of the magical world, the house is full of dark, wizarding mysteries and artifacts. The Black’s loyal house elf dwells inside. The moving tapestry on the wall of one of the upstairs bedrooms shows the various members on the family tree, each animated in ways that regular tapestries could never feasibly be. In terms of appearance, the house is rather decrepit. The wallpaper is peeling, it is full of dust and spiders, and the walls are lined with dimly lit, flickering gas lamps.

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Superheroes You Wouldn’t Want for Your Insurance Agent Thu, 11 Nov 2010 18:31:05 +0000

Whether you are buying life insurance, auto insurance, or homeowners insurance, there are certain qualities you look for in an insurance agent. We were watching The Incredibles recently and were kind of surprised to see the protagonist, a washed up former superhero, was working as an insurance agent. While Mr. Incredible actually did a pretty good job as an insurance agent, even getting himself in trouble for helping out his clients, there are some superheroes we really wouldn’t want as our insurance agents:

  • Wonder Woman. Not only is she really not dressed for business, but she has that golden lasso which forces you to tell the complete truth. And let’s face it, there are times when you’re making a homeowners insurance claim that you may not want to divulge every single little fact. Not that you would lie, of course. But you don’t want to be put in the position where you have to be more truthful than you want to be, either.
  • Superman. Some people are just a little too goody-goody. We don’t know about you, but we’re not sure we’d want to do business with Superman. Besides, we’ve seen Superman II and we’re a little concerned that outlaws from planet Krypton might wreak havoc on anyone who has had dealings with Superman while he’s off cavorting with Lois Lane.
  • Wolverine. He’s cool, but he isn’t entirely reasonable and we’re not sure we would want to have any business dealings with him.
  • The Incredible Hulk. Have you ever run into a salesperson you simply could not say no to? There’s a good reason why the Hulk’s alter ego isn’t into sales, insurance or otherwise. After all, you wouldn’t want to see him when he gets angry.
  • The Wonder Twins. Besides the fact that they’re a little young to be insurance agents, the Wonder Twins would be able to fix just about anything that would go wrong with your house. So, what’s wrong with that, you ask? We don’t know about you, but we’d rather not have a wall or window on our house made of ice if we can help it, even temporarily.

With all of the superheroes we don’t want as insurance agents, we have found one that we think would be completely acceptable. The Flash. After all, he’s as quick as lightning. And when you have an insurance claim, you want someone that can spring into action immediately or sooner.

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Cool Things to Add to Your Home Which May Cost You Big Time Tue, 09 Nov 2010 18:06:38 +0000

You’ve dreamt all your life of owning your own home, and now you do. Congratulations. But before you start adding all of those features you’ve always wanted to have in your house and yard, consider the fact that some of them are going to cost you extra when it comes time to write out your check for homeowners insurance.

We’re not saying that you shouldn’t add anything you want to add. We’re just saying that you need to consider the ongoing costs before you do. With that said, here are some of the coolest things you can add to your home or yard that might cost you a bit extra on your homeowners insurance policy:

  • A water feature. Whether it’s a small water garden, a waterfall, or a big pond, you can expect to shell out extra money anytime you add anything that involves water. You save some money if you put a fence around your water feature, but who really wants a chain link fence surrounding their waterfall?
  • A trampoline. If you have kids, a trampoline is a lot of fun. Heck, even if you don’t have kids yet, a trampoline is a lot of fun. Unfortunately, they’re one of the main things insurance companies look for when determining how much of a risk your property represents. As with most hazards, you are much better off if your trampoline is fenced in.
  • A tree house. Who hasn’t wanted a tree house since they were little kids? We recently heard of a man who built a $600,000 dream home which included two tree houses, one of which was to be used strictly for having Chardonnay and Brie with his buddies. We’re all in favor of tree houses. Insurance companies? Not so much.
  • A pool. The deeper they are, the cooler they are. And the more they’ll cost you on your insurance policy. Make sure you put a fence with a locked gate around your pool or your insurance company may refuse to carry you altogether.
  • A fireplace. There’s nothing better than curling up with someone you love next to a roaring fire. But while you see the potential for romantic evenings, your insurance agent sees the potential for a big payout after your house goes down in flames.
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Coolest Lairs of All Time Wed, 03 Nov 2010 22:32:03 +0000

Chances are, you grew up pretending to be your favorite superheroes. Or, if you were the younger brother, you may have had to play as the super villains. Either way, you got to pretend you had a totally rockin’ lair. After all, next to a pony or a tree house, what could any kid want more than a totally cool lair? In our case, the tree house usually doubled as the lair, but that’s another story. Of course, as adults, most of us avoid actually building secret lairs because they tend to make the homeowners insurance premiums go up.

Still, if you could have a secret lair, which one would you want? We’re sure everyone has their favorites, but here’s our list:

  1. The Batcave. This is the place for you if you’re a gadget guy. Bruce Wayne had the place outfitted with state of the art computers before such things even existed. Besides, who wouldn’t want a lair with the Batmobile in the garage?
  2. Castle Grayskull. Admit it, when you’re all by yourself in the attic, you still pull out your He-Man and Battle Cat action figures. It’s OK, we do, too. As much as we’d love to have Castle Grayskull and that unnamed, mysterious power guarded inside that Skeletor and all the other baddies on Eternia wanted so badly, we’re afraid anything worth building a castle to protect would probably cost extra on the homeowners insurance policy.
  3. The Fortress of Solitude. If you’re looking for a little peace and quiet in a pristine environement, you could do worse than the Fortress of Solitude. In addition to being away from it all, Superman’s lair features alien technology including a holographic image projector. While we don’t really want to listen to Jor-El lecture on the proper use of power, we can imagine watching John Wayne while kicking back and enjoying an ice cold beer.
  4. The Sewer. OK, at first glance this doesn’t sound appealing. But when you add in four kickass turtles and a talking rat sensai and all the pizza you can eat, it would make one heck of a hangout.
  5. Atlantean Temple. Aquaman may have been the lamest superhero ever created (well, besides the Wonder Twins), but his lair rocks. Atlantean babes are hot. Enough said.
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Top 5 Movie Houses You Wouldn’t Want to Insure Fri, 17 Sep 2010 16:55:03 +0000

If you’re an insurance agent, you understand that there is a certain element of risk the insurance company takes on with any coverage it grants. If the house is lost or damaged due to one tragedy or another, then the company ends up footing the lion’s share of the bill. After all, that’s why people buy homeowners insurance. Here are the top 5 movie houses you wouldn’t want your company to have insured:

  1. Aunt Josephine’s house in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. Not only is it precariously perched on a cliff, but the whole thing looks like it’s ready to crumble at any given moment. Chances are most homeowners insurance companies wouldn’t touch this one to begin with, and if you’ve seen the way the movie ends, you’ll understand why not.
  2. Lars’ farming house and complex on Tattoine. The Imperial Stormtroopers in the original Star Wars movie really put a hurting on poor Uncle Lars. And to think, it was all in a vain search for a couple of chatty robots. Everyone inside was killed, and the complex was torched. Of course, that’s nothing compared to what Luke would later do to the Death Star, but until we start insuring planet sized battle stations, that’s irrelevant.
  3. The house in Mouse Hunt. Who would have thought that a 3 ounce rodent could bring down a house valued at more than $10 million. Come to think of it, technically, it was the brothers’ attempts to get rid of the mouse which destroyed the mansion. Still, you wouldn’t have wanted to be the insurance adjuster assigned to that case.
  4. The house in Home Alone. Miraculously, the house survived the movie, and a number of sequels. Still, we have to think that there must have been extensive damage done to the house by the time all of the contraptions and traps Macaulay Caulkin’s character were sprung. In any case, in today’s screwed up world, the criminals would have sued you for damages incurred while breaking in. Fortunately, homeowners insurance usually covers such damages.
  5. The house from Disney Pixar’s Up. After being carried away by helium filled balloons and traveling to remote parts of the world and set on fire, the house eventually falls from sight from above the clouds. We’re not sure, but our guess would be the house is completely destroyed. But, how are you going to explain that on an insurance claims form?
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America’s Biggest House Mon, 02 Aug 2010 14:41:24 +0000 What do you get when you cross a 19th Century railroad baron and the French Renaissance? Apparently, you get the largest private home in the United States, The Biltmore. We don’t know if the name was intended to be punny or not, but they certainly did build more. The house covers about four acres of floor space. Not the property, mind you (that covers more like 8,000 acres), but the house itself. I don’t know about you, but I’m glad I don’t pay the homeowners insurance premiums on that place.

The Biltmore was constructed over a period of six years during the late 1800s. In order to build it, the Vanderbilt family employed an entire community of contractors. A railway line was run right to the property, and sawmills, lumber yards, brick factory, and woodworking shop were constructed right on the grounds.

The house is located near Asheville, North Carolina, and is still owned by descendants of the Vanderbilt family. These days, you can stay the night there. It’s certainly worth doing if you’re willing to pay for a 4 star hotel in North Carolina. The Inn, as the part where you’d be staying is known, has a number of unique features, including guided tours of the expansive estate.

So, how much house can you build in 4 acres? Apparently, 250 rooms in all, including 34 bedrooms, 65 fireplaces, 43 bathrooms, an indoor swimming pool, a gymnasium, a bowling alley, servant’s quarters, changing rooms, and rooms whose exact purpose no one really knows.

Believe it or not, the Vanderbilt family actually lived in the house. George Vanderbilt, who had the house built, moved his new wife in shortly after their Parisian wedding, and the couple raised their only child at Biltmore.

While I’m sure homeowners insurance premiums were not a big deal for a family like the Vanderbilt clan, it makes you wonder how they ever managed to find each other in that huge place. It must have been great for kids. Can you imagine the hide and seek games when little Miss Vanderbilt had her friends over?

Believe it or not, the Biltmore estate, whose architecture was designed to resemble a 16th century French chateaux, was built in a very environmentally conscious way (for the time). Much of the estate is reclaimed forest, having been farmland previously. The estate, in fact, boasts the country’s first managed forest, in addition to numerous gardens.

Photo via Kamoteus (A Better Way)

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Who Wouldn’t Want to Own a Lego House? Fri, 30 Jul 2010 13:28:27 +0000 What would you do with three million Lego bricks? If you’re Britain’s James May, you’d build a house with them. Admittedly, for most, the multi colored 20 foot tall, two story house would be a bit of an eyesore in the otherwise picturesque Denbies Wine Estate in Surrey, but for the right buyer, it could have been a steal. We wonder what the homeowners insurance premiums are like on a Lego house?

The house’s exterior consists of alternating stripes of Lego’s most common colors: white, red, blue, yellow, and black. Transparent colored blocks are used for the windows.

On the inside, all of the home’s furnishings are crafted of Lego blocks, including beds, other furniture, and working sinks, toilets, and showers, complete with running water. May insists that the house is a fully liveable house.

Or it was, anyway. When May originally set out to build the house, with the help of over 1,000 volunteers, he had an agreements with Legoland in Britain for the house to be moved to the theme park. When that fell through, the house went up on the market. Alas, it turns out there really isn’t much of a market for houses built out of Legos. And just when we were hoping to go into business building them.

Because the land was needed for growing grapes, the house had to be torn down and the Lego bricks donated to charity. Apparently, Lego was concerned that if the bricks were sold to recoup part of the cost of the project, it could seriously dig into Lego sales in Britain.

I’m not sure the homeowners insurance industry even has any actuarial tables that deal with covering houses constructed of Lego bricks, but wouldn’t it be a fun house to live in? In a day when most homes being built are modular construction anyway, maybe we should all build Lego houses for ourselves. It would have to be cheaper than the average cost of construction. And, let’s face it, most of us have experience building Lego houses (albeit a little smaller). We could start a whole new cottage industry.

With the instability of the housing market, and the rapid decline of house and property values, you can never tell if you’ll be able to get back what you put into a house anyway. With a Lego house, even if it falls apart, you will at least have something to play with.So, you go ahead and build your house out of brick and mortar if you want to. As for me, I’m skipping Menard’s and heading to Toys’R’Us for some Legos.

Photo via Acutance

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