News – Homeowners Insurance Tips and News Fri, 28 Jun 2013 15:01:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Feng Shui Rules to Live By Thu, 14 Jun 2012 13:22:26 +0000 Whenever you are buying a new home, decorating, or even making changes in your current home, do you pay attention to feng shui? It seems that there are people who strictly follow it, and then some that will only occasionally follow it. Developed over 3,000 years ago in China, Feng Shui is a ancient art form that is used to bring positive energy into one’s life by balancing the energies in any given space. Whatever your take on it, the principles behind the ancient discipline can benefit almost any home.


Probably one of the most important rooms in your home is the entryway. The entryway will be the room that people see most when they come over to your home, but is also one that you will use on a daily basis and often take for granted. The outside entryway will also set a precedent of what people should expect in your home, so you want to make sure you start here.

  • Make sure it is eye- catching: Everyone wants to believe that their house is the most beautiful house. Since most people won’t see the inside, you need to start with the outside. Make sure that you have bright lighting so that your walk way is visible. Also, use plants that will stay beautiful year round.
  • Get rid of the cluster: Next time you think about droping your mail off inside the door, don’t. You do not want a lot of clutter upon entering the home. It needs to be as inviting as possible. Make sure that there are no broken steps and that the inside is as breathable as possible.


Another important room that is often overlooked in terms of decorating is the kitchen. In our fast paced society, not a lot of people have time to cook and spend hours slaving over the stove. So if you are never in there, why should you care what it looks like? Well first of all, you need to spend time there. Spend time with your family cooking great, nutritious meals. It will benefit your family in the long run. Not only will your health improve but so will your closeness.

  • Color: Color is essential in any feng shui element, but particularly in the kitchen. With the use of water and your stove and appliances, you already have fire and water playing against each other. Therefore, you will want to stay away from fire colors such as red and orange. These colors have been proven to make your brain associate them with hunger so your waistline will appreciate it also. Make sure to use cooling colors. Pale yellow is thought to be one of the best options.
  • Layout: Along with color, you will also want to think about the placement of your appliances. How easy would it be if your sink was across from the stove? Well, do not do it. You will put water and fire in direct contrast. This alignment is said to increase arguments in the household.


For some, their room is their sanctuary. They love to spend time cuddled up in their room, but is it really inviting? There are certain elements of feng shui that will make your bedroom more relaxing and will help aide your sleep habits.

  • Bed: Obviously the most important part of the room should have the most rules associated with it. When it comes to placement of the bed you want to make sure that it is placed opposite the door and usually up against the farthest wall. You will want to have a solid headboard like wood or leather and new sheets. Why new sheets? When you replace the bedding every year, it adds fresh energy to the room.
  • Decoration: As we mentioned, color is key to feng shui, so in the bedroom you will want to make sure that you use warm colors and flesh tones. These colors are said to spice up the room and increase romance. Any decoration elements should usually be displayed in pairs. Also, if you want to keep the room romantic then get rid of all electronics and exercise equipment. There are better places for these things.
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Home Sweet Home Gone Wrong Mon, 11 Jun 2012 15:31:20 +0000 Owning a home can be an exciting time in life, especially for first time buyers. However, there are a handful of scams of which new homeowners should be wary about. Given the current state of the economy, protecting your money and credit has become increasingly more important. Unfortunately, scammers are equally motivated to pick-pocket for cash whenever they can and will use a variety of creative tactics.


Home Repairs

In Massachusetts, a 92-year-old man was scammed out of $90,000 for various “home repairs” that three men conducted. Although they actually did work, it was hardly worth the massive fees they incurred. The men allegedly charged the elderly gentleman $8,000 for a five-hour job cleaning out his basement according to CBS News. Neither the man nor his 70-year-old daughter found the charges odd. Thankfully, the men were arrested and face charges for larceny among other things.

The lesson learned here is to pay close attention to what and how you pay for home repairs. Even professional services can overcharge for painting or plumbing fixes. Comparing rates is the best strategy to avoid paying too much for menial work.



Don’t let one natural disaster turn into another. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) published a press release warning homeowners not to be tricked into accepting damage clean-up service offers from “reputable” contractors. Although there are certainly legitimate providers, there are also a high number of door-to-door vendors who will take your money without returning to do the work you paid for.

Those who do show up might use poor quality materials or repairs that aren’t worth the cost. More recently, the NICB mentioned a scam that involves contractors doing further damage to your home to try to convince you further services are needed. Others will have you file a claim on damage that occurred over the years prior to the storm, while claiming that it actually was storm-related damage. Careful oversight of these proceedings, should you choose to hire contract work after a storm, will prevent risk of these scams.


Waterline Letters

Playing off the assumptions and ignorance of some homeowners, scams are popping up on technical issues as well. Anita Liggins noticed something was odd about the letter she received in the mail about her responsibilities relative to her waterlines. The letter was from HomeServe USA, who claimed she was responsible for the maintenance and repair of certain exterior waterlines and suggested she look into purchasing insurance from them.

Because of the suspicious elements of the letter (lack of return address, zip code tracking back to a different area than stated in the letter, etc.), Liggins made a few phone calls to determine the legitimacy of the suggestion. Apparently she was not the only one who received the letter scam. Several similar cases were reported for the same area according to WAFB News. The Newport, Ore. City Police website notes that this scam is occurring in multiple cities. Although the letters appear to be from the city, the company is usually illegitimate.



By far the most common — and usually most expensive — scam on homeowners is related to mortgages. The California Association of Realtors President LeFancis Arnold stated that mortgage fraud complaints have jumped nationwide by 60% this year alone. Experts think this may be related to the fact that the housing market is in such a desperate state and homeowners are more vulnerable than ever to the appeal of saving money on lower rates.

This is the leverage scammers use to obtain credit information and make fast cash off of homeowners who are deceived by the perceived legitimacy of the mortgage companies. In one instance, a man was called by a company who claimed they could drop his payments from $783 a month to $386. After collecting the fee of $1,900 up front, they informed him that he could quit paying his monthly mortgage. Of course, it was not long afterwards that the bank foreclosed on his condo as payments ceased.

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Housing Options That Will Not Break the Bank Wed, 23 May 2012 16:16:14 +0000 Following the devastation of the housing market, Americans are looking for alternatives to expensive and burdensome mortgages. Affordable housing has become a No. 1 priority for many citizens. Short of living in a trailer, these are the four most financially gentle options for housing.



The Wall Street Journal highlighted the mindset of potential home owners in their findings in a study done by the Demand Institute division of the U.S. Conference Board. The study revealed that the majority of Americans still aspire to own a home in the near future, yet their expectations have taken on a more reasonable turn. In addition to reconsidering their preference for a mansion and aiming more pragmatically, many Americans have decided to rent for the time being until the market recovers a little more.

In fact, Market Watch reported that renting is the primary cause of the recent market improvements over the last few months. Renting boosts the economy in two ways: landlords focus more of their financial resources in property and home improvement, and renters provide a market for the many homes that can’t be sold otherwise. Slowly but surely, the increasing shift to renting is causing the market to stabilize.

Renting is not only a cheaper option for housing, but it comes with fewer responsibilities as well. Often, landlords will include free yard work and repairs as part of the contract, and taxes for a renter are much simpler than those with a mortgage and title. For those not quite ready to purchase a home, but still able to afford the next best thing, renting is an attractive and affordable option.



Apartments appeal to the younger generation more than anyone else, but recent trends show that senior adults are also considering them for retirement as opposed to an expensive home. This is primarily because many of the retirees are saddled with expensive mortgages that they won’t be able to pay off before ending their employment.

Out of necessity, they are forced to consider more affordable living quarters, and the fact that apartments are generally located close to town is a major benefit to those who might not be driving in the near future or who want to live close to extended family.

For young singles, married couples, or small families, apartments are a great way to build credit history and save for a house. With all the amenities that apartments offer as well as landscaping and repairs, this housing option is not only practical, but fairly hassle-free.

The only financial concern associated with apartments is that rates often increase after each lease is up. Sometimes you can negotiate terms with the landlords, though, to keep the rent the same rate in return for continuing with that complex. Otherwise, it’s not terribly hard to find another apartment in the general vicinity offering lower rates.


Mobile Homes

If you are planning to build a house or buy a home, a mobile home can be a great, affordable option for the temporary time being. The Census Bureau produced an annual report noting that the average price for a new manufactured home costs between $37,100 and$83,800 depending on the size and region.

If the home is set up in a development zone or park, additional fees may be required for renting space or facility use — up to $800 a month or more, again depending on location. Since most mobile homes rapidly decline in value over time, they are hardly a long-term investment other than providing a housing situation while saving for a real home.

The other benefit of mobile homes is their transportability. They can be moved almost anywhere and if you have property you plan on building on eventually, putting a mobile home on it temporarily is a simple solution.


Government Housing

Although most common in Asia and Europe, there are select places in the United States where government-provided public housing (otherwise known as social housing) is available. Of all the “affordable” options, public housing is the least attractive for safety reasons.

Intended to provide decent and safe rental housing to low income families, elderly, or disabled people, crime poses a serious disincentive. Because the majority of residents are low income, public housing is notorious for high crime rates. The New York Police Department released data about the increase in shooting incidents — a 55% increase from 2009 to 2010. Although authorities suspected that crime didn’t increase overall, but rather relocated, it still highlights the safety risks of public housing.

Nevertheless, in a pinch, public housing can keep you from living on the streets and for those in a low-income situation, it may be their only option.

Depending on your needs, income level, and financial state, any of these options would be easier on the pocketbook while still providing a sensible housing solution.

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One Man’s Trash Mon, 08 Nov 2010 18:02:25 +0000

These days, record numbers are forsaking the notion of buying homes in favor of renting an apartment. Many are even abandoning homes they were buying as the market continues to look grim, leaving many homeowners upside down in their mortgages. But this exodus provides those who wish to own a home (and who don’t mind paying for property taxes and homeowners insurance) with an unprecedented opportunity.

The price of housing is as low as it is ever likely to get. Even if we were to see another hard recession, it is unlikely that the price of housing will go much lower than it is right now. Additionally, interest rates for mortgages are also at an all time low, giving home buyers a once in a lifetime opportunity to buy a home at a rock bottom price, with the added benefit of paying a very low interest rate.

This is especially attractive for those who are in a position to qualify for a shorter term mortgage. Those who are able to take out 15 year fixed mortgages are in a position to have a significant amount of positive equity in their homes without paying out a ton in mortgage interest. Home buyers who opt for a 15 year mortgage will generally find themselves well ahead of the curve by the fifth or sixth year of their mortgages.

Of course, if you decide to buy a home, you need to consider more than just your mortgage payment. There are several other expenses associated with owning a home, each of which should be added into your calculations when you are figuring out your living expenses. These include:

  • Property taxes
  • Homeowners insurance
  • Utility bills
  • Maintenance
  • Home repairs

While none of these things should scare the average person away from buying a home, they are all things which need to be budgeted for. Home buyers should also be aware that, while they can currently deduct the interest on their mortgages from their income taxes, there is some speculation that this deduction could be taken away in the near future.

So, if you’re in a position to take advantage of the low prices and interest rates in the housing market today, do so. If you’ve ever wanted to be a homeowner, this is likely the best chance you’re ever going to get.

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Cheapest Housing in America Fri, 05 Nov 2010 22:38:19 +0000

If you’re one of the fortunate ones who has the luxury of picking and choosing where you want to live, and are of a mind to shave a few thousand bucks off your cost of living each year, you might want to consider moving to an area with low housing costs and low cost of living. Believe it or not, there are still some places in America where it really doesn’t cost much more to buy a house and pay for homeowners insurance than it does to rent an apartment.

While these locales admittedly aren’t for everyone, they will save you a ton of money if you choose to settle down in one of them:

  • Detroit, Michigan. Ask anyone from the Wolverine state: if you’re looking for a job, go somewhere else and keep on looking. But, if you’re just looking for an inexpensive place to live, Detroit housing is as low as it gets. Of course, you’ll have to deal with high crime and other big city issues, but at least your house will be cheap.
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Despite the fact that the recession really didn’t hit all that hard in Pennsylvania (largely because the steel industry had gone south a long time ago), housing prices are still low in Pittsburgh. As a matter of fact, most people find it is actually cheaper to buy a home than to rent here.
  • Tampa, Florida. The recession hit Florida like a ton of bricks. Since tourism is a major part of Florida’s economy, anytime people in other parts of the country have a rough time, Florida feels it, too. This works in your favor if you’re looking for cheap housing, though, because there are lots of foreclosed homes for sale in Tampa and other Florida cities.
  • Dayton, Ohio. Right now, most large cities in the Rust Belt are suffering. Dayton, in particular, has seen its housing values plummet. That’s bad news if you already own a home in Dayton, but if you’re looking for a place where houses are cheap and you won’t need to pay as much for homeowners insurance, Dayton would be an excellent place to look.
  • Orlando, Florida. Like Tampa and the rest of Florida, Orlando’s housing market has suffered as tourism has declined. So, if you’ve ever had the inkling to live next to Mickey Mouse, now just might be your best time to make your move.
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Firefighters Watch as Home Burns to the Ground Fri, 22 Oct 2010 15:55:30 +0000

It’s a scene that would make most firefighters sick, and angered most of the locals, including the fire department itself. Firefighters in a small Tennessee town recently responded to a house fire just outside of city limits, but instead of fighting the blaze, they were ordered to let the double-wide trailer burn to the ground. Turns out, the owner had not paid his $75 firefighting subscription fee and was therefore not covered by the municipal fire department.

Homeowner Gene Cranick pleaded with firefighters to put out the flames, saying he had simply forgotten to pay the bill and that he would gladly pay them the money if only they would put out the blaze. His wife, Paulette didn’t put the blame on firefighters for not dousing the flames because she understood they were just following orders. The family’s cat and three dogs died in the fire.

The town’s mayor, David Crocker, stands by the policy that allowed the Cranick’s home to burn to the ground. The city of South Fulton charges $75 a year for fire protection services extended to rural residents beyond the city limits.

“Anybody that’s not in the city of South Fulton, it’s a service we offer, either they accept it or they don’t.”

Cranick’s call to 911 was fruitless, even though he offered to pay the fee several times. Firefighters did not initially respond until Cranick’s neighbor, who had paid his fee, called 911 out of concern the fire might spread to his house. Firefighters then came to the scene, but did nothing to put out the blaze at the Cranick house.

“My neighbor called [the fire department], saying whatever it takes, we want them to put it out, we’ll pay $500,” said Cranick. “They told us, ‘It’s too late.'”

Cranick’s son, Timothy, reportedly got so angry over the incident that he later went to the firehouse and punched fire chief David Wilds. He was charged with aggravated assault and is currently free on bond.

The elder Cranick, meanwhile, reports that homeowners insurance will cover some of what was lost, but admits that he didn’t have enough coverage to protect him and his family against a total loss. Although the local community and outraged people nationwide have made offers of assistance, the Cranick family has graciously turned them down, saying they will donate the money to charity since they are receiving help from their insurance company.

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What’s the Big Deal? Mon, 09 Aug 2010 19:29:30 +0000 We’ve seen and heard a lot of things that have made us do a double take, especially since the advent of the Internet. Occasionally, we hear something that’s so screwy all you can do is shake your head and walk away. Imagine living in a million dollar home in Odessa, Florida, paying ungodly mortgage payments and homeowners insurance (remember that’s hurricane country) and then being told you can’t park your vehicle in your driveway.

Sounds crazy, but it’s true. A.J. Vizzi’s homeowner’s association told him he couldn’t park his big Ford pickup truck in his garage. It may have been one thing if they had told him that before he bought the house. Vizzi even went to the extreme of asking if the homeowner’s association would allow him to park the pickup truck, which doesn’t fit in the house’s garage, in the driveway. It wasn’t until more than a year after he was living in the house that he was told he couldn’t park the pickup in his own driveway.

Now, I know some of you, especially if you live in gated communities, or other subdivisions with covenant agreements are starting to wonder if maybe this truck resembles the one driven by Red Foxx’s character on Sanford & Son. Even if it did, it’s a little extreme to tell a man he can’t park in his own driveway, but it doesn’t. The truck is later model, and appears to be kept clean. It certainly isn’t an eyesore, unless you have something against trucks in general.

The end result, after a lengthy court process, is that Vizzi gets to park his truck in his driveway. But, should it really have needed to cost the man $200,000 in legal fees just to defend his right to park on his own property? In the end, of course, the legal fees were passed on to the loser, the subdivisions homeowners’ association. So, Vizzi gets a check at the end to recoup his losses spent on this whole frivolous affair. Maybe after he cashes it, he’ll be able to afford to pay those sky high homeowners insurance premiums down there.

Photo via Narith5

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Up in Smoke Mon, 26 Jul 2010 14:24:02 +0000 A recent event in our neighborhood really drove home the need to have good homeowners insurance. The couple, newlyweds, had just bought their first home in our small city neighborhood. A May wedding, followed by a new home in June. Things were looking wonderful for the happy new couple. Then the Fourth of July came.

Now, the Fourth of July is a big deal in our community. People flock from all over the state, and even from neighboring states, to enjoy our fireworks displays. And our city isn’t content just to celebrate America’s independence for one day. Nope, we celebrate it for three whole days.

In our state, about the only personal fireworks that are legal are sparklers and snakes. In other words, if it goes boom, or leaves the ground, or produces flame, or presents any fun in any way, shape or form, it is illegal. Verbotten. Theoretically it’ll get you fined or locked up. In practice, the police have more important things to worry about.

To make a long story short, the laws forbidding personal fireworks are so weakly enforced that they really don’t stop anybody. Fireworks go off in the street for all three days of the annual Fireworks Festival, and in reality, the occasional crackle, sizzle, and boom can be heard for a week or two before and after the Fourth.

Back to our young couple. They enjoyed the fireworks like anybody else. Who knows, they might have even lit off some of those illegal fireworks, though we don’t have any personal knowledge of that. What we do know is that their neighbors across the street and down a couple of houses shot off some illegal fireworks.

The police confiscated the rest of the fireworks from the neighbors across the street, but not until after the damage was done. A stray firework of one sort or another made its way across the street into the dry bushes in front of the young couples’ house. Within minutes, the house was in flames, and the sirens were blazing. Someone, probably one of their relatives, was carried out on a stretcher. Fortunately, no one died.

The house? We’re sure it can be restored, but it endured its share of fire and smoke damage, to say nothing of the water damage from putting it out and the brand new hole in the roof the firefighters cut for ventilation. Chances are, though, that their homeowners insurance will cover that. After all, that’s the reason we all pay our premiums every month. We never know when something can happen and, even if it isn’t our fault, we want to make sure that it isn’t or loss.

Photo via Vanessa Pike-Russell

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Oil and Water Wed, 16 Jun 2010 19:14:34 +0000 For those who live along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, the potential for losing a home due to hurricanes is just a part of life. While some find out too late, more and more people understand these days that you need both homeowner’s insurance and flood insurance to protect yourself from the multi-faceted damage these horrific storms can produce.

Recent developments with the tragic BP oil spill have led to a host of interesting new questions amongst Gulf Coast homeowners. Many want to know what our insurance policies will cover. We also want to know who is responsible for the rest. Is BP liable? Do we simply lose out if our homes and property are damaged by oil? A hurricane or tropical storm blowing oil inland is a very real possibility, threatening residents not only on the beach, but throughout the coastal area.

Let’s take a look at what would happen and who would be liable if a Gulf storm caused damage to our homes or property by blowing oil ashore:

  • In most cases, our insurance companies would pay for any structural damage caused by the storm, except for damage caused by flooding. This does not necessarily include damage caused by pollutants such as oil.
  • Flood insurance would cover any damage caused to the home because of flooding. It appears that this would likely include damage caused by any oil that was in the water while the area was flooded, but this has not been clearly defined, and FEMA has not yet made a definitive statement on the issue. Additionally, only structural damage would be covered in most cases. The yard, gardens, etc. are uncovered.
  • In the case of the current BP oil disaster, BP may be responsible for covering damages to your home or lawn, should they be damaged by oil from the spill. However, the process of establishing claims can be time consuming. Make sure that all damage is well documented before you begin any cleanup proceedings, so you will have proof of damages should you need it later.

For those living on the Gulf Coast, especially the areas that are being hardest hit with this disaster, it might be a good idea to contact your agent now, before a hurricane rolls in, to see what we are (and aren’t) covered for. The last thing we want is to face the aftermath of a disaster and find out that our homeowner’s insurance didn’t cover everything we thought it did.

Photo via faceless b

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Amityville Horror Home for Sale Mon, 07 Jun 2010 15:59:09 +0000 There are any number of reasons that you might have a hard time getting your homeowners insurance company to cover you. It could be that the home has faulty construction. You could be affected by a situation like many folks were in Florida and Louisiana where a bad batch of drywall was used to build your home. Insurance companies can be sticklers when it comes to certain existing or potential defects in a home. Some homes just aren’t worth the risk to the insurance company.

Then again, your home might just be haunted.

Take, for example, the infamous Amityville Horror house. This is the home of Ronald DeFeo Jr. Its story was made famous in the movie of the same name. It’s now up for sale.

When this five-bedroom house located on Long Island first went up for sale after DeFeo shot six of his family members in their sleep in 1974, the price tag was a mere $55,000. That’s a heck of a deal on such a large house, especially on Long Island.

Even by 1997, as things sort of settled down after more than 20 years, the house sold for $310,000, below the market value of similar homes in the area.

Today, however, the stigma seems to be gone. The newly renovated Amityville Horror house is back on the market, and it has a hefty price tag. The owners are asking for $1.15 million.

The house has inspired a series of films, as well as a book. Probably the most famous of these is the 1979 classic The Amityville Horror, starring Margo Kider and James Brolin. The movie tells the story of a family that stayed in the Amityville Horror house during the years after the murders. The Lutz family actually lived in the house, and they eventually lost that house to foreclosure.

Some former owners even changed the address of the home to protect their privacy. The house was renumbered 108 Ocean Avenue from 112 by James and Barbara Cromarty, who lived in the house between 1977 and 1987. The home was sold again in 1997 to the current owner.

Photo via Anemone Nemorosa

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