Category Archives: Home Insurance

Fall Home Safety

Household safety tips change with the season

As days get shorter and nights get longer, our habits begin to change. Most of us typically spend more time at home and less time outside. That usually means resuming favorite fall pastimes like watching football games and drinking hot cocoa on the sidelines of our little ones’ soccer games.

Arriving along with the season of autumn is a host of safety hazards we didn’t have to think about over the summer, creating the need for a little extra vigilance. As the temperatures drop and you settle in for the approaching cold spell, consider the following pointers for ensuring you and your family stay not just warm, but also safe!

Warm up carefully. All types of heating units can be dangerous. If you use a wood-burning fireplace, secure it with a screen to prevent sparks, and make sure the fire is completely out before you retire for the night. In addition, make sure a qualified chimney sweep inspects and cleans your fireplace flue once per year. If you depend on your home’s furnace, make sure it has been inspected before you start to use it again. If you have any space heaters, make sure they are in good working order (no frayed cords) and out of the reach of children.

Enjoy ambiance safely. If you use candles to add a warm glow to a cold night, make sure they are safely out of reach of children, can’t be overturned by pets, and are not close to flammable items such as blankets, paper, or furniture. If you’re known for falling asleep before heading to bed, extinguish all candles early in the night to avoid an unsafe, all-night burning situation.

Exercise yard safety. If you’re going to be pruning trees and shrubs, hanging Halloween decorations, raking leaves, or engaging in other yard activities, use caution: be careful on ladders, avoid power lines, and put away yard tools when you’re finished.

Be grounded. Have weather-friendly shoes and boots handy for the whole family. This is the season for slippery driveways and walkways. Without proper footwear, you can find yourself on your back or in the hospital.

At the Insurance Center of Milwaukee, we wish you a fabulous fall season!

Contact Us!

We can work with you to make sure you’ve got the coverage you need, while at the same time using all possible credits and discounts to make that coverage affordable. Just give us a call at 414-744-6614 or send us a note at info@InsuranceCenterMilwaukee.com. We want to help you meet your goals and make sure what’s important to you is protected!

Renters Insurance

The Importance of Renters Insurance

If you live in a rental or apartment, there is a 60% chance that you don’t have the proper insurance. Despite the fact that rented homes are more likely to be burglarized than owner-occupied properties, nearly 60 percent of renters don’t have renters insurance.

Why does it matter?

“If you rent a house or apartment and think that your landlord is financially responsible when there is a fire, theft or other catastrophe—think again,” warns the Insurance Information Institute*. Landlords may have insurance to protect the building, but your landlord’s policy won’t replace your personal possessions. The best way to protect yourself financially against theft, fire, etc. is to buy a renters insurance policy.  Renters insurance can cover your possessions, liability, and additional living expenses. Let’s take a look at these three types of protection:

 Possessions

Standard renters insurance protects your personal belongings against damage from fire, smoke, lightning, vandalism, theft, windstorm, water, and other disasters listed in the policy (see the policy for details) – floods are not covered. There are “special form” policies available as well and they cover many more perils than standard “broad form” policies.

To decide how much insurance to buy, you need to know a ballpark value to replace of all your personal possessions—including furniture, clothing, electronics, appliances, dishes, and even towels or bedding (most people insure their “stuff” for $20,000-$100,000). There are two types of settlement options for your possessions if there is a claim:

Actual Cash Value pays to replace your possessions minus an amount for depreciation up to the limit of your policy.

Replacement Cost pays the full cost of replacing your possessions (with no deduction for depreciation), up to the limit of your policy. The price to add replacement cost coverage is minimal, so always ask for replacement cost.

Note that most renters policies offer only limited coverage for items such as jewelry, guns, etc. If you own these items, you may want to supplement your policy with an endorsement. An endorsement is added to the policy providing additional insurance for valuables and covers them for perils not included in your policy such as accidental loss.

Liability

This coverage is not what you typically think about when you think renters insurance.  Renters insurance policies usually provide liability protection in the event you unintentionally cause injury to others or damage their property.  It also pays for damage or injury caused by your pets.  If you are sued, the liability portion of a renters policy may pay for both the cost of defending you in court and for the damages, up to the limit of the policy. Liability limits generally start at about $100,000.

Additional Living Expenses

Many people are pleasantly surprised to learn that Additional Living Expense (ALE) coverage is typically included in a renters insurance policy. If the home or apartment you are renting is damaged or destroyed and you need to live elsewhere while it is being repaired or rebuilt, renters insurance will cover your additional living expenses—namely the difference between your regular living expenses and the additional costs incurred by having to live away from your home, such as hotel bills, temporary rentals, restaurant meals, etc.

A typical renters policy costs $10 – $40 per month. Contact us today at 414-744-6614!

*Insurance Information Institute, September 30, 2009

Preparing for College

Insurance Tips for Back-to-School Time

College is expensive enough without finding out that an accident or theft isn’t covered under your current insurance policies. As you get your children ready to head off to school, there’s one vital item to add to your list – a review of your insurance coverage. It’s important to keep in mind that policy language varies from state to state, and there are never “one-size-fits-all” situations, but below is a general guide. If you have questions about Wisconsin policies, or want to go over your insurance needs, don’t hesitate to contact us!

HOMEOWNERS (may vary by state and individual policy)

  • Coverage of personal property: Most homeowners policies provide 10% of Coverage C (Personal Property) for property owned by an insured that is at a residence other than the insured’s.  For example, if the contents of a policyholder’s home are insured for $100,000, a student’s property up to $10,000 would be covered if living in a dormitory – provided the damage is caused by a covered peril and the student meets the definition of an insured.
  • Liability coverage: There usually is an exclusion for damage to property rented to an insured, so generally damage to a dorm room or apartment would not be covered.  See your specific policy language for details.
  • Ensuring adequate coverage:  Contact us to get specific answers and information about Wisconsin coverage. It’s a great idea to create an inventory of the items your student is taking to school by keeping photos and/or receipts.
  • Renters insurance: For apartments or houses off-campus, renters insurance is strongly recommended if a particular homeowners policy does not cover a student’s personal property. Certain items, such as jewelry or expensive electronics, may require special coverage, or a “rider.”  Landlord policies generally only cover the structure, not the possessions of renters.

AUTO (may vary by state and individual policy)

  • Coverage without a car at school: If your student will continue to drive while at home on school breaks, they should continue to be listed on your auto policy. If they are attending school more than 100 miles from home, and are not taking a vehicle with them, he/she may qualify for a distant-student discount.
  • Coverage with a car at school: In most instances, a car registered to parents and listed on their policy will be covered if used by a student (listed as a driver) while away at school, however, you should check with your insurance company to make sure. And note that a change to the principal location of the vehicle could result in a change in premium.
  • Driving a friend’s car at school: Students generally would be covered while driving a friend’s car if the students are listed on their own policy or their parents’ policy and do not have regular use of the vehicle. The coverage would likely be secondary in this case, as the carrier for the friend’s vehicle likely would be the primary coverage.
  • Coverage discounts: In addition to the possible distant-student discount mentioned above, students may qualify for a good-student discount. To qualify, most insurance carriers require that a student be enrolled as a full-time student at an accredited college or university and meet certain academic qualifications (typically a 3.0 GPA).

Going away to school is an exciting time for students and their parents. Making sure you’ve got the right insurance coverage can help you protect your assets as you invest in your child’s future. We’re happy to discuss your coverage and options — just give us a call (414-744-6614), email (info@insurancecentermilwaukee.com), or stop at our office!

Check for Storm Damage

How to Check Your Property for Damage After a Storm

 When a big storm hits in Franklin, New Berlin, Milwaukee, etc. you hunker down inside, relying on your home to protect you and your family. Once that storm passes, it’s time to repay the favor — identifying damage and protecting your home from further issues.

The National Storm Damage Center has a number of resources and tips for homeowners. Here are three major things the agency (and the agents at Insurance Center of Milwaukee) – recommends you check after a storm:

1. Your roof: If you see missing shingles on your roof or if you notice leaking inside or out, it’s a good idea to have a qualified inspector come assess the situation.

2. Your exterior: Aluminum/Vinyl siding, brick and stucco are all vulnerable to storm damage. You’ll want to look for cracking, chipping or dings in the siding, and for holes in stucco. Look closely and at different times of the day. Some homeowners don’t notice damage until it’s too late to file a claim, and different lighting can reveal damage you didn’t see before.

3. Trees: According to the National Storm Damage Center, fallen trees and limbs cause more than $1 billion in damage annually. Check roofs, vehicles, fences, etc. for fallen limbs that may have caused damage or could pose a risk. Clean up what you are safely able to clean and rely on a reputable tree removal service to handle the rest. Depending on the circumstances, your homeowners insurance policy may help with tree removal and damage repair costs – if you experience a covered loss, that is.

A few more helpful tips:

Keep trees well maintained and trimmed. Keep limbs a safe distance from your home.

Know your insurance. Take a look at your policy so you know what’s covered, what your limits and deductibles are, etc. This will prevent any surprises during the claims process.

Take pictures. Photographs can help you show the cause and extent of any storm damage that occurs.

Of course, if you’ve suffered damage from a major storm, don’t hesitate to call us at the Insurance Center of Milwaukee at 414-744-6614 for help with an insurance claim or with finding a professional property inspector.

Tornado Truths

Tornado truths that can help you stay safe

Tornadoes have caused severe and irreparable damage to tens of thousands of Americans and their property in recent years.  Although you can never control the weather or the outcome of a destructive storm, there are steps you can take to help you and your family remain protected in the event of a tornado. Those steps of action begin with knowing the facts.

Here are a few tornado truths that could help keep you and those you love safe:

When indoors, shut all windows and doors. Do not leave them open in an attempt to follow the mythical need to “pressurize” your home because the result would more likely be debris flying through the window and causing severe harm, or wind pressure working to lift the roof off the house from the inside.

If you are inside your home or other structure, retreat to the lowest level (a basement is ideal) or the room closest to the middle of the home or farthest from windows and doors. Do not seek a “corner” of the structure for your retreat; instead, go to the center-most point, away from windows and anything heavy that could fall on your head.

If you’re outdoors, find the lowest spot, such as a ditch, and lie flat on your stomach, covering the back of your head with your hands.  Do not follow the myth of seeking shelter underneath a bridge or overpass because it could collapse on top of you or large debris and winds could come rushing underneath and potentially sweep you up into the tornado itself.

If you are in a vehicle, abandon the vehicle and try to find shelter in a structure or outdoors in a low place where you should lay stomach-down and cover the back of your head with your hands. Most importantly, do not attempt to drive away from the storm unless it’s very obviously far away and moving in the opposite direction.

Do not take shelter near a road and expect the tornado to miss you. Some myths say that tornadoes will reverse their directions when nearing a road or foothill, but a tornado doesn’t discriminate and will keep on its path.

Use head gear, if available. Head protection can be the number-one most important factor in remaining protected from flying debris—indoors or outdoors—so know where bike, football, batting, boxing and other helmets are in the house, and make them easily accessible.

At the Insurance Center of Milwaukee we want to help you know the tornado truths that will help keep you and your family safe. For more tornado safety tips, visit the Storm Prediction Center’s comprehensive guide at http://www.spc.noaa.gov/faq/tornado/safety.html.

 Contact Us!

 At the Insurance Center of Milwaukee, we can work with you to make sure you’ve got the coverage you need, while at the same time using all possible credits and discounts to make that coverage affordable. Just give us a call at 414-744-6614 or send us a note at info@insurancecentermilwaukee.com. We want to help you meet your goals, and make sure what’s important to you is protected!

Protection during a Hailstorm

Staying safe on the road during a hailstorm

It may sound surprising, but there are approximately 3,000 hailstorms in the United States each year. The size of hail can widely vary – from pea size to softball size. When it starts building up size, hail can cause severe damage to your dwelling, vehicle damage, bodily harm, and even death. On average, each year hailstorms cause over $1 billion in damage to property, approximately 1,500 injuries, and 80 deaths.  Hail is a main driver of homeowners insurance rates in Wisconsin as well.

One of the most frightening places to be during a hailstorm is on the road in your car. Obviously your vehicle is at great risk of damage, but even more importantly, you are in danger in the event you can’t see well enough to drive or your windows are broken by the power of the storm.

At the Insurance Center of Milwaukee, we want to ensure you, your loved ones, and your vehicles stay safe this hail season. Here are some pointers for navigating a hailstorm while on the roads in in Southeastern Wisconsin.

 

  • Make sure you have a blanket in your car at all times. It can help protect you from glass injuries in the event the hail breaks your windows or windshield.
  • Turn on your low-beam headlights, and slow down.
  • Make sure you have more distance than usual in front of you so you have ample space to brake if necessary.
  • Turn on the local weather radio station to stay apprised of the status of storms.
  • If there is enough space on the shoulder of the road, pull over.
  • If there is a covered shelter to pull underneath, do so; this will reduce the damage sustained by your vehicle.

At the Insurance Center of Milwaukee, we hope you stay hailstorm-free this season! 

 Contact Us!

 At the Insurance Center of Milwaukee, we can work with you to make sure you’ve got the coverage you need, while at the same time using all possible credits and discounts to make that coverage affordable. Just give us a call at 414-744-6614 or send us a note at info@InsuranceCenterMilwaukee.com and we will get quotes, from the 12 insurance companies that we have available, tailored for your needs. We want to help you meet your goals, and make sure what’s important to you is protected!

College Graduation – Insurance Tips

Protect your college grad with the right insurance

College graduation is an exciting time for students and their parents alike.  While the graduate is focused on job offers and first-job jitters, it’s a time of major transitions and it’s essential to prepare for what comes next.

One area new college graduates need to address is insurance.  At the Insurance Center of Milwaukee, we know insurance can be a confusing topic.  We also know that seemingly small missed details can result in very large losses.  We want to ensure your college graduate is protected before heading out into the real world, so we have compiled the following pointers.

 

  • Review your family’s current insurance. The first step when considering insurance for your new graduate is evaluating the coverage you have currently.  Make an appointment with your agent, who can advise on whether it’s appropriate given the pending changes, and whether it will cover your son or daughter.
  • Know the law. Most states require drivers to have auto insurance, and most of those have minimum policy limit requirements.  Consult with your agent, to make sure they are covered adequately.
  • Read your lease. Many apartment, condominium and home rental properties require tenants to maintain renter’s insurance, which covers the contents of the home in the event of a robbery, fire, liability claim, or specified other losses. Make sure you know the terms of your son or daughter’s new lease.
  • Don’t end up liable. Any renter or owner is exposed to liability risk. To ensure there is adequate coverage in the event someone gets injured on your son or daughter’s property, speak with your agent about liability insurance.
  • Don’t gamble! Never go without. It’s simple: your son or daughter should always have insurance in place. Be sure to discuss with your agent what types they need.

We, at the Insurance Center of Milwaukee, congratulate you on the graduation of your daughter or son!  Please contact us with any questions at 414-744-6614.

Spring Cleaning Tips from Insurance Center of Milwaukee

Spring is a time for new beginnings, so cleaning and organization around the house are very popular this time of year. If you’re ready to tackle that monumental chore, read on for some helpful information. (And if you’re so tidy and organized throughout the year that spring cleaning isn’t a big chore for you, well, keep that to yourself! Unless you want your friends and neighbors to be jealous.)

Focus on one room at a time. Deciding to clean or organize your entire home can become overwhelming. If you focus on just one area or room, then move to another only when you’re finished, you’ll likely work more efficiently.  Take pictures with your cell phone to document any unusual items for insurance purposes.

Follow the six-month rule. Generally, if you haven’t used something in six months (with the exception of seasonal items), it’s a good idea to consider throwing it away or donating it.

Don’t forget the kitchen. Just like other rooms, your kitchen likely has things that haven’t been used in some time — and this includes food in the refrigerator or freezer. Give those appliances a thorough cleaning and get rid of anything you won’t be eating.

Set yourself up for success. Paper clutter is something we all could probably cut back on pretty easily. Setting up a few recycling bins throughout the house gives you a convenient alternative to just setting that old magazine or paperwork down somewhere and watching the pile grow.

Make some money! A spring cleaning garage sale is a tradition for many homeowners, and can be a great way to bring in some extra income. Talk about a win-win situation — you get rid of stuff you don’t need, and someone pays you for it!

Stay safe. When you’re cleaning or maintaining your home, be mindful of the physical risks involved. Avoid prolonged repetitive motions. Use ladders, lawnmowers and other dangerous tools with caution.

Contact Us!  For further questions and assistance, please contact the Insurance Center of Milwaukee at 414-744-6614 or info@InsuranceCenterMilwaukee.com

Home Insurance Value

How Much Coverage do I Need to Rebuild My Home?

Imagine how devastating it would be to lose your home in a fire.  Now imagine having to chip in $30,000 from your own pocket to be able to rebuild it completely because you didn’t have the correct amount of insurance.

Selecting the proper amount of coverage is one of the most important decisions you can make with your homeowners insurance policy.  Without proper limits, you may not have enough coverage to rebuild after a total loss.  You want to make sure that the amount of the insurance on your home is equal to the reconstruction value.  This is called “insurance to value.”  Below are some explanations and tips to help you make the right choices for your needs — and remember, if you need help, we’re just a phone call away (414-744-6614)!

What is insurance to value?

Insurance to value is the relationship between the amount of coverage selected (typically listed as “Coverage A” or “Dwelling Coverage” on your policy declarations page) and the amount required to rebuild your home – simply put, Coverage vs Reconstruction Value.  Insuring your home for anything less than 100% insurance to reconstruction value could mean you wouldn’t have enough coverage to replace your home in the event of a total loss.  At the Insurance Center of Milwaukee, we have access to a computer program (that is updated quarterly) to help determine the proper amount of insurance for your house located anywhere in Wisconsin!

Why is the cost to rebuild different from the market value?

A home’s market value reflects current economic conditions, school districts, the value and location of the land, and other factors unrelated to reconstruction cost.  The cost to rebuild your home is based only on the cost of materials and labor in your area.  Think of it this way – where ever you build a 1500 square foot home in SE Wisconsin (Milwaukee, Oak Creek, Greenfield, Shorewood, etc.), it will cost about the same for the labor and materials even though the market value could be drastically different.  That is why it is important that you insure your home based on its reconstruction cost, NOT its current market value.

Why is reconstruction more expensive than new construction?

New home builders typically build many homes at once, and solicit bids from various sub-contractors to receive the best pricing. Their business model is based on economies of scale. For example, they may purchase 100 windows at one time, securing a lower “per window” cost. These economies of scale don’t exist when building (or rebuilding) a single home.  During reconstruction the contractor has to be careful not to damage the existing landscaping and may have to work around features in the interior of the house as well.

How can I make sure I have the correct amount of insurance?

Provide detailed information at time of purchase to be sure that you receive a thorough and accurate quote and don’t forget to tell your agent about any changes or improvements that you make to your home.