Tag Archives: local insurance agent

What Coverage amount should I pick for my Homeowners Insurance?

How much coverage do I need to rebuild my home?

Let’s revisit this topic that we initially posted back in 2014. With inflation running rampant, now seems like a good time for a refresher. Imagine how devastating it would be to lose your home in a fire or a storm. 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) 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! This is especially important with current rising labor and material costs. The cost of lumber, shingles, cement, etc have skyrocketed in the last two years.

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, Franklin, 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.

Talk to your agent to make sure your home is insured properly!

Firework Safety

When Things go BOOM in the Night

 The Fourth of July is about having fun and creating memories with family and friends – whether at home in the Milwaukee area or away at a cabin on a lake.

Unfortunately, for some families the holiday is a nightmare. Homes each year in Wisconsin are damaged by wayward fireworks and thousands of people are injured in firework accidents.

At the Insurance Center of Milwaukee, we want your holiday to be happy, but also safe. So here are some tips to help you protect yourself and your property on the Fourth.

Protecting yourself (and others)

  • To minimize the risk of injury, don’t use consumer fireworks. Attend a public display conducted by professionals at the Milwaukee lakefront or a neighboring community.
  • If using consumer fireworks, always follow instructions. Do not attempt to re-light “duds” or create homemade fireworks.
  • Never let children handle or light fireworks. Even sparklers, which burn at more than 1,000 degrees, can cause third-degree burns
  • A responsible adult should always be present when children – even teenagers – are around fireworks. More than half of fireworks injuries happen to those younger than 20 years old.

Protecting your home

  • According to the National Fire Protection Association, the best way to protect your home is to not use fireworks at home.
  • Remember, fireworks can cause grass fires and other types of blazes as well. Make sure you light fireworks in a safe area, away from homes and buildings, as well as other combustible material. Keep a fire extinguisher nearby in case of emergency.
  • Look out for tree limbs or bushes that could catch fire. Trimming vegetation to keep it away from your home is a good idea anyway, but it could save you from a catastrophic fire on the Fourth of July.
  • If your gutters have accumulated leaves, pine needles or other flammable material, clean them before using fireworks near your home.
  • Finally, if you won’t be home on the holiday, ask a neighbor to keep an eye on your house if others in your neighborhood will be using fireworks.

With some common sense and planning, the Fourth of July can be both safe and enjoyable for everyone. Whether you’re staying at home or heading to Milwaukee’s lakefront, we hope you have a wonderful time celebrating Independence Day!

Over the river and through the woods in Milwaukee…

Millions of Americans will do some traveling this holiday season – the majority of it by car. Winter weather creates a unique set of challenges on the roadways, whether you’re simply driving around Oak Creek or headed to New Berlin.

At the Insurance Center of Milwaukee, we’d like to help you not only enjoy your holiday season, but help ensure you’ll be around for future holidays, too! So please take these winter-travel safety tips to heart.

Prepare your car for winter

Before leaving on your trip in SE Wisconsin, give your car a thorough check-up. Do wipers need to be replaced? Are your fluid levels where they should be? Tires in good shape? And – we know you’ve heard this before, but bear with us – your car should have an emergency kit. Pack it with jumper cables, blankets, a first-aid kit, flares, water, a flashlight, etc. A shovel and sand are good ideas as well.

Before you leave

Know where you’re going and check weather conditions along your planned route. Let someone know your itinerary. If your car has snow or ice on it, make sure it is completely cleared off before you depart. Don’t forget to clear your headlights and other lights, along with the roof – ice and snow blowing from your car could create a hazard for other drivers.

When you’re on the road

Are roads snowy or icy? Take it slow. Give yourself extra time to get to your destination, and make sure you leave extra room between your vehicle and others on the road. Watch for ice patches on bridges, overpasses, and shady spots. Remember, having four-wheel or all-wheel drive does not mean your car will stop or steer better on ice.

Of course, sometimes it’s best not to drive in snow and ice at all – stay home if you can.

If your vehicle becomes disabled

Nobody wants to think about being stranded on the side of the road in a storm, but it happens to thousands of people every year. If your vehicle is disabled, be sure to stay with it. Run your engine and heater for short intervals, and open one of your windows slightly to prevent carbon monoxide build-up. Light two flares (remember that vehicle emergency kit? Now’s the time to use it) and place one a safe distance from both the front and rear of your vehicle. Note your location with mileposts, exit numbers or cross-streets, and call the authorities or a tow truck.

We hope you enjoy your holidays with friends and family, and we look forward to serving you in the New Year!

Boat Winterization

Tucking your boat in for the winter?

 For boat enthusiasts everywhere, the end of boating season can be disappointing because on-the-water adventures are ending and the task of winterization is beginning.

Taking the time to protect your watercraft through the winter requires an investment of time, labor, and money. While winterization is an absolute imperative that can help prevent damage, think of the process not as a chore, but a chance to dream about next spring when you’ll be ready to go boating on Little Muskego, Pewaukee Lake, etc.

To help you get started, we at the Insurance Center of Milwaukee have compiled two essential steps to follow.

1. Find the best storage place indoors or outdoors

  • If possible, find a place to have your boat spend the winter out of water and well out of the way of inclement weather.
  • If you are storing your boat outdoors, check on the level of security. For example: Is it a locked facility? Are there cameras?

2. Be thorough in winterizing or find a pro

If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, the steps to winterizing your boat can be easily found via many online resources. Your boat’s owner’s manual also could be a great help, as most will include detailed winterization instructions.

Regardless where you get the details, you will ensure a better start next boating season if you follow a comprehensive checklist to get your boat ready for winter.

If you’re opting out of the do-it-yourself category and instead trusting the pros, you’ll want to find a shop that specializes in winterization. Get an appointment well in advance of the assault of inclement weather. To find the best option, consider getting a reference from a fellow boating enthusiast.

However you choose to prepare your prized watercraft for the frigid days of winter, we at the Insurance Center of Milwaukee hope you enjoy the cooler season as you await the return of spring!

Heading to Sturgis?

Motorcycle trips

Whether you’re taking your Harley and heading across country, or just hitting the Wisconsin back roads, we want you to be safe this summer. Here are a few top tips:

No one’s too old to wear a helmet

The bottom line, a motorcycle rider not wearing a helmet is 40% more likely to sustain a fatal head injury in a crash than a rider with a helmet.* Wear other protective gear as well: heavy leather or synthetic gloves, long pants and jacket, and over-the-ankle leather boots.

In a crash, the SUV wins

When cars and motorcycles collide, it’s usually because the driver of the car failed to see the cyclist. With more SUVs on the road, it’s even more critical to take extra steps to become more visible. Use your headlamps—both night and day—and wear yellow, red, or orange jackets to make yourself easy to see. Make a point of positioning yourself in your lane for visibility.

New Gear? Update your policy

Some companies (Safeco for instance) offer special coverage for custom parts and equipment—but you have to make sure each piece of equipment is listed on your policy and/or that you have receipts. Any time you buy new leathers or customize your bike, call the Insurance Center of Milwaukee at 414-744-6614 or email info@insurancecentermilwaukee.com before you head out on the highway.

Teen Driving Safety

Talking to Your Teen About Safe Driving

When teens begin to drive, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the National Safety Council, the sobering statistics start to pile up:

• Car crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens ages 14 through 18.
• A teen’s crash risk is three times that of more experienced drivers.
• Being in a car with three or more teen passengers quadruples a teen driver’s crash risk.
• More than half of teens killed in crashes were not wearing a seat belt.

You can help your young driver make better decisions behind the wheel. Set a good example yourself. Have a serious discussion about the following issues, all of which have a large impact on the safety of teen drivers:

• Speed: According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, speeding continues to grow as a factor in fatal crashes involving teen drivers. Thirty-three percent of such accidents in 2011 involved excessive speed. While a lot of emphasis is rightfully placed on the risks of driving under the influence or while distracted, the danger of speeding is just as important.

• Alcohol: If drivers are under 21, driving with any amount of alcohol in their system is illegal. It’s as simple as that.

• Seat belts: Teens don’t use their seat belts as frequently as adults, so it’s important to set a good example and always have yours on. Seat belts are the simplest way to be protected in a crash.

• Phones: Distracted driving is dangerous driving, especially for an inexperienced teen. That means no calls or texting when behind the wheel — no exceptions.

• Passengers: The risk of a fatal crash goes up as the number of passengers in a teen driver’s car increases, according to the NHTSA.

Of course, any driver needs to have a good grasp on the laws and rules of the road and, because teens don’t have much experience, it’s important to have regular conversations about safe driving. How teens drive doesn’t just depend on them. It depends on you, too!

Spring Home Maintenance

Spring Maintenance for Your Home

 When springtime rolls around in the Milwaukee area, almost everyone thinks of cleaning. We probably need to do a little more of that, after all, but there’s something even more important to keep in mind: home maintenance.

When it’s time to set your clocks ahead for daylight-saving time (March 12, 2017) and change the batteries in your smoke/carbon monoxide detectors, give your home a checkup too. Here are some suggestions from the Department of Housing and Urban Development:

Interior and appliances

  • Check the basement and/or crawlspace for any signs of standing water or dripping.
  • Pull your dryer out and clean the exhaust hose and vent (lint found here is a common cause of house fires).
  • Vacuum refrigerator/freezer coils for efficiency.
  • Clean exhaust fan outlets and screens.
  • Check all air filters and replace, if necessary.

 Roof, siding, windows

  • Check for damage to your roof
  • Go into the attic. If there is visible moisture or discoloration, your roof might be leaking.
  • Examine the paint on your siding and trim. If it is peeling, you might need new paint to protect against the effects of weather.
  • Check for leaks around window and door sills. Improving your seals can lower your energy bills.

Yard and exterior

  • Check for signs of rodents and other pests.
  • Clean debris from gutters and downspouts, and make sure they are draining away from the home.
  • Trim overhanging tree branches and shrubs away from your house.

Remember, winter weather can cause significant damage that is easy to spot, but it often results in wear and tear that homeowners can miss if they aren’t looking closely. It’s well worth it to spend a little time on home maintenance this spring, so that wear and tear doesn’t turn into something more serious.

Winter Storms

Winter Storms Ahead: Are You Ready?

We admit it. As insurance professionals, our picture of winter isn’t always cozy. Winter storms mean traffic jams, hillsides turning to sheets of ice, and cars sliding around like hockey pucks. Cold temperatures can cause pipes to burst, ice damming on your roof, and other damage. Heating your home with fireplaces and space heaters can increase the risk of fire.

A picture-perfect winter requires a few precautions

Here are a few tips to help reduce weather-related hassles this winter.

Winter-proof your car with good snow tires, new wiper blades, antifreeze, and emergency road supplies.

Keep your attic cool to help prevent ice dams. Insulate the attic floor and make sure it is well-ventilated.

Do not overload circuits with holiday decorations or space heaters.

When winter storms hit, be smart

If you do not have to drive, stay put. If you must drive, make sure you’ve winterized your car and have a full tank of gas.

When the air is cold, keep bath and kitchen cabinet doors open so warm air can circulate around pipes under sinks. If pipes do freeze, let them thaw normally—they’ll be less likely to burst.

And if the power is out, make sure you avoid leaving candles or fireplaces burning unattended. If you use a portable generator, follow the instructions and do not use it indoors.

Know what your insurance covers

We want to help you rest easy.  You will be more relaxed when you know you have prepared your property to lessen the chance of winter storm damage. Check your insurance policy to see what is covered and to confirm the deductible you have chosen.

If you have any questions about your coverage, call us at the Insurance Center of Milwaukee and we will help you review your options.

Condo Insurance

Condo or Condon’t — Condo Insurance

You’ve taken the plunge and opted for the condo life.  Now that the papers are signed, it seems like everything is taken care of for you—building maintenance, roof repairs, landscaping, insurance, etc.  It’s time to relax because everything is covered, right?

Not quite.  The insurance policy provided by the condo association typically covers the building structure and common areas, but what about potential damage to your unit (carpet, cabinets, etc) and covering your belongings?  Without a personal condo insurance policy, you could be left holding a large invoice if your unit is damaged in a fire, has water damage from a broken pipe, etc.

Most condos need two insurance policies.

Master Policy:  Generally provided by your condo association, this policy typically covers the physical structure of the building, including basement, roof, walls, elevators, lobbies, etc.  Coverage usually includes both physical damage and liability (for the association). Get a copy of the policy so you know what’s covered.

Personal Condo Policy:  This will cover additional structural damage to your unit, including cabinets, appliances, personal belongings, and more.  This also covers living expenses if you fall victim to a covered disaster and are displaced from your condo.  Many insurance carriers, such as Safeco InsuranceTM, offer enhancements that include personal property protection in your condo insurance policy. Safeco’s Full Value Contents® protection will pay the full replacement cost of your belongings, not just what they are worth today.

Contact us today at the Insurance Center of Milwaukee if you have questions!  Our phone number is 414-744-6614.

Five Ways to Get your Car Stolen

Five sure-fire ways to get your car stolen

 Most people would say their car is one of the most valuable assets they own, however, some people make it easy for thieves to drive off in their pride and joy.

At the Insurance Center of Milwaukee, we don’t want you walking out your door to an empty driveway or leaving Mayfair Mall only to find some broken glass left behind in your parking space. So take care to avoid these five mistakes.

 

  1. Leaving your car running … and unattended. We know it can be chilly in the mornings and who wants to wait in a cold car while it warms up? Well, a thief certainly won’t mind the chill — as he’s driving away in your car while you’re finishing that cup of coffee in your kitchen. If your car is running, you should be in it.
  2. Keeping a spare set of keys inside the car. Law enforcement agencies say this is a great way to turn a car prowler into a car thief. They’re already breaking into your car to get a phone, laptop, etc. What do you think they’re going to do when they find a set of keys?
  3. Leaving valuables in plain sight. Seems simple, but we’ve all made this mistake. You’ll just be in the store for a second, after all, so who cares if you leave your smartphone on the front seat? Or items from your other errands in the back seat? Be smart — if you have to leave items in your car, put them in the trunk, or at least hide them as best you can. And do it before you get to your next destination.
  4. Leaving your car unsecured. The best thieves can work wonders with a window that’s left open even just a crack. While the worst thieves can steal a car that’s been left unlocked.
  5. Assuming nobody would want to steal your car. Think your car is too old or too undesirable for a thief to bother? Scrap metal is worth money, so never assume that your car is safe — even if you think it’s just a “junker.”

 

Keeping thieves away helps to keep everyone’s insurance costs down, so avoiding these mistakes not only will save you hassle, it will save you money as well. So stay safe, not only on the roads, but in the parking lots as well!

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 shopping 12 top rated companies for you. 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!