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Summer at Last

June 17th, 2010 by Lori Reed

We are approaching Father’s Day and right after that the Summer Solstice.  Summer is here!

 

Colorado finally warmed up.  It has been a strange spring with cold cold days and last weekend we even had snow in some of the lower foothills.  That of course was the day I chose to have a graduation party at our tiny little bungalow, assuming people could be outside in our well kept (well not so much) back yard.   Unfortunately, we all ended up in the kitchen.  Oh well. 

 

It is that time of year when people socialize a bit more and the most popular neighborhood member is the one with … a swimming pool.  Croquet is a little too quiet, lawn darts are not available, Frisbee works with the right back yard, but the swimming pool seems the backyard item that draws everyone in.  At least, figuratively.

 

But in case you are contemplating adding a swimming pool you might think about some of the liabilities associated with it, highlighted in the recent article “Swimming Pools Often Come with Insurance Liabilities”  we just added to our site.

 

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Your Roof Could be Your Home’s Best Friend

May 21st, 2010 by Penny Hagerman

hurricane-comingAs weather forecasters predict a worse-than-average hurricane season this year for the Atlantic basin, those of you who live along the coast are probably wondering what you can do to protect your home from the destructive gale-force winds and rain that accompany these storms.

According to the Institute for Business & Home Safety, a new, well-installed roof could be one of the best forms of protection available for your home and everything in it, come hurricane season.

“But why would I want to install a brand new roof just before a hurricane hits?” you may say.

If you have an older roof, it may be missing shingles—or be made of inferior, older  materials that don’t keep water out. It may also have lost some of its sealing and waterproofing ability, which degrades over time.

Additionally, if your roof is layered more than 2 deep, water may be able to seep in between the shingles and down into your home.

Besides replacing your roof, the IBHS also recommends these tips for increasing your home’s survivability and decreasing the chance of water damage in a hurricane:

  • Protect all exterior wall openings (windows and doors)
  • Secure all loose roof shingles
  • Seal all openings, cracks and holes
  • Strengthen soffits (the material covering the underside of your roof overhang)
  • Limit potential flying debris

During a hurricane isn’t the time to find out that your roof can’t sustain such severe weather. So before a storm threatens, consider replacing an old, worn roof, and make sure you’ve taken steps to give your home as firm and solid a foundation as possible.

It’ll help keep you and your family safe and secure, your homeowners insurance affordable and your possessions intact.

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Clean up the Clutter…or Risk Losing Your Home Insurance

April 5th, 2010 by Penny Hagerman

messy_houseIs clutter taking over your home? Is your “stuff” blocking your entrance and exit, creating a falling, tripping or fire hazard for anyone who lives there or comes to visit?

Most of us lead busy lives, so taking the time to clean up and clear out clutter is difficult. But eventually, we all have to face that mounting pile of newspaper, mail or bills—and make everything orderly again before it drives us and our families crazy.

For some people who have a hard time getting rid of things, clutter is a much bigger problem than for others. Known as “hoarders,” individuals like this collect everything from paper, to boxes, to office supplies, to appliances—and everything in between.

Problem is, mounting piles of “stuff” can cause all kinds of hazard in your home, putting you and your family at greater risk—and causing your homeowners insurance company to drop your coverage.

When you first insure your home, your insurance company usually inspects at least the outside perimeter of the house. But it really has no reason to take a look at the inside, unless it suspects something there that could result in problems later on.

Due to the popularity of shows like Hoarders, insurer awareness of issues like these and the insurance risk that goes along with them has peaked too. As a result, many are beginning to require an inspection of the home’s interior if and when they suspect a problem.

Most problems are simply discovered when someone files a home insurance claim and an inspector enters to assess the damage.  At that point, if the insurance company representative sees a noticeable problem that increases insurer risk, the company that holds the policy may choose one of several strategies: work with the person to reduce risk, send out a warning notice to clean up the mess or lose coverage, or cancel the policy right there and then.

Whether you hoard things or you’ve just let things pile up, if you’ve collected too much “stuff” and the inside of your home presents safety issues for you and your family, it’s time to clean it up.

Not only will you start living cleaner and clutter-free; you’ll likely avoid facing cancellation of your insurance policy, too!

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Timber! Watch out for Falling Trees!

March 23rd, 2010 by Penny Hagerman

fallen_treeHere at InsureMe, we get a lot of insurance questions from people just like you. And one of the most popular topics involves falling trees and homeowners insurance coverage.

Some people wonder if they’re covered when a neighbor’s tree falls on their home or car. Others ask if they’ll be held financially liable if a tree in their own yard damages someone else’s home or property.

Sometimes, readers even write us panic-stricken after the fact, wondering what they can do about the physical and financial mess they’ve been left with following an incident with a fallen tree.

In general, the answer is yes, your home insurance policy does cover damage caused by falling trees—as does your neighbor’s insurance. The main discrepancy is in whose coverage applies and on what level.

In researching this subject, I came across a great podcast by the Insurance Information Institute that explains trees and insurance quickly and concisely. Since the III is one of the most trusted resources for insurance information online (besides InsureMe!), I thought I’d pass along this information to help answer any questions you may have about tree damage and your insurance coverage.

Take a few minutes to listen, and save yourself some heartache should you ever encounter this type of situation.

If you have any other questions—tree-related or otherwise—feel free to submit them via the open-ended question-and-answer forum we call InsureMe Answers. And while you’re in the neighborhood, feel free to browse through the answers to others’ questions, too. You never know what useful tidbits you might take away with you.

Whatever you do…look out for falling trees!

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Thinking about Lowering Your Home Insurance Coverage?

March 18th, 2010 by Penny Hagerman

front_porchToday I read a question someone posed online regarding home values and insurance coverage that I hadn’t considered before, so I thought I’d broach the subject here. You’d be wise to pay attention.

Here it is. Ready?

If the value of your home declines significantly, should you decrease the level of homeowners insurance you’re carrying on it to match?

And the answer?

Absolutely not! Though it seems to make sense at first thought, when you think it through, the problem is that your homeowners insurance premiums are based on the cost of rebuilding and/or replacing your home—not its market value.

If anything, the cost to rebuild is probably higher now than before you purchased your home. Why? Because the cost of manufacturing materials and transporting them to the place of purchase has risen, along with everything else.

That means, if a tornado comes your way and literally blows your house down, you’re going to need that additional coverage you’re considering dropping to avoid paying rebuilding costs out-of-pocket. 

Although your home’s value may be decreasing, and you may even be upside-down on your loan, reducing your level of coverage can be dangerous. So before you take matters into your own hands and end up holding the bag, hold steady on your insurance coverage during this tough market and avoid lowering the level of insurance coverage on your home.

Instead, as the Insurance Information Institute recommends, consider raising your deductible as high as you can possibly afford. This strategy could save you up to 25 percent, without leaving you and your family financially destitute or homeless.

If you’re not sure you have enough coverage on your home to start with, talk to an agent on the InsureMe network now and find out for sure. You might be surprised how much coverage you can add for very little additional cost. And the peace of mind you’ll acquire is priceless!

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Is Old Man Winter Knocking on Your Home’s Door?

January 29th, 2010 by Penny Hagerman

house_in_snowAs parts of the southern and central sections of our country got blanketed in a winter storm last night, Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry declared Oklahoma a state of emergency.

According to national news stations, most schools and businesses in that state shut down to try and cope with the onslaught of freezing rain, sleet and snow that is forcasted to continue until midnight tonight.

As snow piles up, ice settles in and pipes freeze this winter, your home can suffer costly damage—and those lead to repairs that someone has to pay for.

So who will it be: you or your insurance company? Do you know?

The good news is, “standard homeowners policies provide coverage for a wide range of winter-related disasters, such as losses incurred due to burst pipes, wind damage and wind-driven rain, as well as well damage or power outages caused by downed trees, limbs or other falling objects,” according to the Insurance Journal.

So if the temperature drops below freezing, your pipes burst and your home ends up submerged in 6 inches of water, you’re likely covered for the repairs that will need to be made.

If the tree in your front yard gets weighed down with snow and subsequently falls on your home, you’re likely covered for both its removal and the repair for the damage it caused your home.

If the weight of ice and snow on your roof causes a portion of it to collapse, and water comes pouring in through your attic, your insurer is most likely responsible for fixing, replacing and repairing the damage that results from it, too.

But under what circumstances do you become responsible for the damage your home and property suffers due to winter weather conditions?

If you choose to purchase a very basic homeowners plan, often referred to as “fire only” coverage, the burden for this kind of damage will be solely yours.

If that tree loaded with snow falls in your yard and has to be cut up and carted away—but it doesn’t damage, break or hurt anything in the process—that responsibility is yours.

If you leave your home in Wisconsin vacant in the winter in favor of a warmer dwelling in Florida, you must pay for any weather-related damage that occurs in that vacant home while it’s left unattended.

For tips on minimizing the effect winter weather can have on your home and property, check out this press release from the III. Then get in touch with your home insurance agent and find out which damages are covered under your policy and which ones aren’t.

For more information:

How to Winterize Your Home

Old Man Winter Arrives Early This Year

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Get a CLUE!

January 22nd, 2010 by Penny Hagerman

Ever wonder how your present insurance company found out about that insignificant auto insurance claim you filed with your previous insurer three years ago?

Did you call your insurer simply to discuss a potential home insurance claim—only to find yourself and your home uninsured shortly thereafter?

In case you haven’t heard, insurance companies track any and all property insurance claims you make, on both your home and vehicles, using a system called CLUE. That stands for Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange, which is simply a fancy name for an online insurance reporting system.

Similar to the way companies pull your credit report from one of the three participating credit agencies, insurance companies can pull your CLUE report to help them determine how likely you are to file a claim against your policy.

What’s in your CLUE? Besides general information like your name, date of birth and social security number, it includes information on past, paid claims and, in some states, even inquiries about coverage that don’t result in a claim—yes, just like your credit report.

By sharing claims and inquiry information amongst themselves using the CLUE system, insurers can calculate claims risk when you apply for new insurance and determine whether or not they’d like to do business with you.

If you haven’t seen your CLUE report (and, until now, you had no idea there even was such a thing), we’d advise you take a look at yours and check it for errors. You can order a copy here so you’ll know what you’re facing come time to shop your insurance rates again.

Get a CLUE! You’re entitled to it.

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Animals, Risk and Insurance

December 18th, 2009 by Penny Hagerman

woman_with_petsIf you’re an animal lover like me, you probably can’t imagine living without pets.

After all, there’s nothing quite as endearing as that perky little puppy who greets you at the door at the end of the day, tail wagging, or that sweet little kitten who wraps himself around your shoulders while you’re watching TV at night.

But there’s risk inherent in owning animals, too. Whether you live in the city and enjoy dogs and cats or reside in the country and raise cows, pigs, goats or some other type of farm animal, you’re responsible for your animal’s behavior.

So if they get out of their pen and injure someone or damage someone’s property, you’re the one who’ll be paying the bills.

Your homeowners insurance covers what’s referred to as “reasonable risk.” That means they’ll generally pick up the tab if there’s not excessive danger of your animal repeatedly causing irreparable harm to others.

If, however, statistics show that the type or breed of animal you own tends to be on the dangerous side, you’ll pay more to insure yourself against possible insurance claims—whether the animals are domesticated or on the wild side.

What if someone else’s animal injures you? The same rules apply: either that person’s own insurance policy will pay for the damages or they’ll be held responsible to cover that cost themselves. This is known as liability in insurance terms.

Sometimes weird situations happen involving animals. But if you’ve got the right insurance coverage, you should be prepared, no matter how strange or unusual the circumstances.

If you’ll be having company around your animals this holiday season, you’d best think ahead and possibly even imagine the worst. Then talk to your insurance agent about covering your animals with your home insurance policy. Add a rider, or extra insurance protection, if necessary. But make sure everyone stays safe around your animals while you’re celebrating this year.

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Are Your Wheels Protected?

December 11th, 2009 by Penny Hagerman

bike_in_parkFor people who use bicycles for transportation, their wheels represent so much more than just fun and entertainment.

They’re also a money-saving way to commute around town and get some exercise without spending money on gas or car insurance.

When times are tight and people are out of work, many will do most anything to make a buck—including stealing that expensive bike you spent months saving to buy. That’s why it’s important to keep your bike locked up when you’re not riding it.

The more difficult you can make it for a thief to steal, the less likely they’ll take the time and energy to steal yours, and the more likely they’ll move on to someone else’s.

But besides locking up your bike, there’s something else you can do to protect yourself against bike theft, something many people aren’t aware of: include it in your contents coverage under your homeowner’s insurance policy.

It’ll cost you next to nothing to insure it (unless it’s a super expensive touring version or the like), yet you’ll have peace of mind that your ride will always be there—or be replaceable—should it ever turn up missing.

For tips on avoiding bicycle theft and keeping your bike safe and secure, read our article titled Thieves on Two Wheels. Then talk to your insurance agent about insuring your bike—before a thief beats you to it!

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Protecting Your Home from Holiday Burglary

December 4th, 2009 by Penny Hagerman

burglar

Planning to leave town for the holidays? If so, we’d advise you take steps to prevent burglars from invading your home while you’re gone, no matter where you live.

According to a press release by the Insurance Information Institute, one quarter of all home burglaries occur during the winter months, when many homeowners are out-of-town for the holidays.

With homes obviously empty of people but full of possessions, it doesn’t take long for a thief to scope out what’s inside, find entrance and steal your holiday joy!

Lessening the risk of invasion helps keep homeowners insurance rates low. So as you’re preparing to head out of town to join family and friends this year, don’t neglect to burglar-proof your home and minimize your chances of returning to a burglary disaster.

Then relax and enjoy the holidays, knowing you’ve taken care good care of your home, property and everything you own.

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How Does Your ‘Hood Rate?

October 26th, 2009 by Penny Hagerman

big_houseWith housing prices at an all-time low these days in many areas, some families are bypassing renting completely in favor of owning instead—or moving up and purchasing homes of their own.

And why not? With low prices and tax credits combined, home ownership makes more sense than ever before—as long as you play it conservative and don’t get in over your head.

But before you pick out that perfect home in what you think is the perfect neighborhood, here’s some food for thought: The neighborhood you choose has a lot of influence on what you pay for homeowners insurance. In fact, factors like location, neighborhood makeup and amenities all play a part in home insurance rates in any particular area.

Neighborhoods used to be one of two types: urban or suburban. But as times have changed, neighborhoods have changed along with them, evolving to meet the growing needs of several different types of family structures: young couples with families, yuppies without children, middle-aged empty-nesters and the senior, retirement crowd.

Since each of these groups has needs and desires uniquely its own, new types of neighborhoods have sprung up all over the country to serve those purposes. For instance, those who tend to go everywhere on foot would rather live within walking distance of their hangouts and the places they frequent than hassle with driving or taking public transportation.

For someone like that, a pedestrian neighborhood fits the bill, offering everything they need only a short distance from home—whereas a family with a particular ethnic heritage might prefer to live in a neighborhood made up of others with a similar background.

An older, retired couple who are finished raising their children might be ready for the resort lifestyle…and who could blame them, after a lifetime of working and saving for their later years?

Each of these situations presents its own lifestyle and financial dilemmas, including the cost of home insurance. So before you go with that berg near downtown or that little country town you love so much, find out what you’re likely to pay for insurance once you get settled.

It’ll help you decide which place fits your tastes and lifestyle best—with a side of insurance thrown in.

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Tornadoes, El Nino and Other Severe Weather Patterns

October 19th, 2009 by Penny Hagerman

winter_scene_through_windowAn abnormal warming of Pacific ocean waters in the equatorial area, El Nino is well known for causing strange weather phenomenons throughout the U.S., especially during the winter months.

As tornado season passes and we move into fall and winter, some weather forecasters are predicting that El Nino will strengthen and persist through the winter months,  leading to lower-than-average temperatures in some parts of the country and higher-than-average in others.

Though forecasters disagree on the impact it will have this winter in various U.S. regions, they’re agreed on this fact: Unusual weather patterns will prevail from December through February.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts we’ll see warmer-than-average temperatures across much of the western and central United States and below-average temps in the Southeast and mid-Atlantic this winter.

AccuWeather.com, another leading weather source, disagrees, predicting El Nino will weaken, leading to the stormiest and coldest U.S. winter in years.

Whatever happens weather-wise, it’s time to prepare our homes and families for severe weather (just in case). So tend those pipes, blow out those sprinkler systems (if you haven’t already), seal leaks around doors and windows, and have a professional check your heating system to make sure it’s functioning properly.

As tornadoes and hail give way to snow and ice, it’s also important to check your home insurance coverage to make sure you have the coverage you need. Depending on where you live, this could turn out to be one crazy winter!

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Fire!

September 23rd, 2009 by Penny Hagerman

house_fire

Creating one of the most hazardous and deadliest types of loss, fire can strike anywhere at any time.

With a single ember from a cigarette, stove top or campfire; a spark of electricity; or too-close proximity to the flame of a candle or space heater, a home or business can be set alight and burn down in no time, causing thousands of dollars worth of damage and killing or injuring anyone inside or nearby.

But who’s responsible for the damage it causes?

Standard home and business insurance policies cover the destruction fire leaves behind—which can be extensive and costly. Whether in the midst of one simple accident or a major, catastrophic disaster, fire usually strikes unexpectedly and with vengeance.

Though your insurer will help make sure your home and possessions can be replaced if you ever suffer fire damage, it’s your responsibility to be prepared in case it ever happens to you.

For your protection, and to protect your home, the Insurance Information Institute recommends these fire safety tips:

  1. Install smoke detectors and familiarize your family with the sound of the alarm.
  2. Plan an escape route from your home. If possible, every room should have two escape routes.
  3. Remember that smoke and heat rise. When you encounter smoke, crawl on the floor where the air is cleaner.
  4. Make sure your roof is constructed with fire-resistant materials.
  5. Mark the entrance to your property clearly so firefighters can easily locate your home.
  6. Keep a fire extinguisher in your home.
  7. Landscape your yard with fire-resistant plants. Check with your local fire department or landscapers to determine which plants are safe. Clear all other vegetation up to at least 30 yards from your home.
  8. Make an inventory of your possessions and store it off the premises. If your belongings are damaged, this list will help facilitate the claims-filing process.

Some fires and the damage they cause are beyond our control, as you’ll read in Jeb’s article on The Most Expensive Blazes in U.S. History. But for those we can prevent, we should each do our part to protect the people and things that matter most. After all, we can’t change the past—but we can make the future better.

More Fire and Insurance Resources:

Fire Prevention (I.I.I. video)

Fire-Smart Tips for High-Rise Apartment Dwellers

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Red, White—and Green

September 2nd, 2009 by Penny Hagerman

green_energyIn these days of high prices, layoffs and budget cuts, saving money is the name of the game.

In the midst of a hurting economy, local and national government is doing everything it can to encourage us to go green.

Enter Cash for Clunkers, tax breaks for hybrid car owners, and incentives for homeowners purchasing and using energy-efficient appliances.

For natural environmentalists, going green is a way of life. But for some of us, it takes more effort.

However, some insurance companies like Travelers, Farmers and Allstate are making it easier. They’re giving us further incentive to reduce our carbon footprint by rewarding us with insurance discounts, such as those for green-certified or solar-powered homes.

A five to 10 percent insurance discount may not sound like much; but start adding up the discount possibilities and you could make a significant dent in your insurance premiums.

Insurers say that green consumers (whether patriotic or not) tend to drive less, stay healthier, be more mature and act more responsibly than the less environmentally friendly. They’re also less likely to file insurance claims.

And, since that’s the kind of customer they’re looking for, they’re willing to reward us for our efforts—whether at home, in our car or elsewhere.

If you have car or homeowners insurance but you’re not taking advantage of all the green discounts, take a few minutes to give your insurer a call and ask what they have available. You might be surprised how much money you can save.

Resources:

Going Green Brings Insurance Discounts

Green Insurance, the Eco-Alternative

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Deed vs. Breed: What Do You Think?

August 28th, 2009 by Penny Hagerman

If you own a home and at least one dog, you probably know your insurance company charges more to insure some dogs than others.

As Jeb so aptly points out in his own, humorous pit_bullway, owners of larger dogs like pit bulls known for their aggression pay more to insure against bodily injury than those who own little dogs, like Pomeranians.

“But wait,” you say. “My pit bull is the sweetest, most loving dog ever! How come I have to pay more for insurance than my neighbor with the little pomeranian, when my pittie has never hurt anyone?”

In short, it’s because that sweet 80-pound pit bull’s breed has a not-so-nice reputation. That means he’s a higher risk than the little pomeranian. And insuring against risk means a higher likelihood of claims and higher home insurance rates.

If that 80-pound dog did decide to nip at that little kid he thought was threatening you in the park, he’d be likely to take the child’s face off without thinking twice; whereas that little pomeranian would be more likely to make a lot of noise or run away.

At least, that’s how the ‘Breeds’ side of the argument goes.

Some people think that notion is utterly ridiculous. “Judge a dog on his deeds, not his breed,” they say.

While that sounds good to the human ear, your insurer says it’s just not a reliable method for determining which dog will attack and injure, and which one won’t. Therefore, like it or not, owning that pit bull could end up costing you a lot more money than owning a smaller animal with a less violent history.

What do you think? Should homeowners be charged liability rates based on their dog’s breed or history? Let us know your thoughts—dog owner or not!

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Snap! Crackle! Pop! (No, That’s Not Your Rice Krispies)

August 20th, 2009 by Penny Hagerman

lightning_over_cityMost of us have been seeing unusual weather patterns this year.

From heavy thunderstorms and rain to hail and lightning, scientists attribute this strange weather to El Nino—and they say we’re in for at least another year of unseasonable temperatures and uncharacteristic thunderstorms.

When the weather turns nasty, the number of insurance claims goes through the roof. Hail damages homes and cars, high winds and heavy rain cause flooding and destruction, and people and animals get trapped outside and injured or killed.

But do you know which weather event is the most dangerous, damaging and costly? You might be surprised. Ready? Lightning.

Lightning strikes about 250,000 times and kills an average of 73 people each year—more than hurricanes or tornadoes.

Since 2004, the number of lightening-related insurance claims filed by policyholders and paid by insurance companies has dropped almost eleven-and-a-half percent.

That sounds like good news, right?

But hold on to your hat: the average cost per claim has increased nearly 64 percent over the past five years.

Why? Well, let’s just say that’s not your Rice Krispies you hear going snap, crackle, pop!

To find out the effect lightning can have on your insurance—and the very real damage it can cause—read our article titled, “Lightning Claims Shocking.” It might open your eyes to the damage lightning can cause, while helping you stay out of harm’s way when skies turn dark.

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Is the Big Bad Wolf Trying to Get Your Goat?

July 15th, 2009 by Penny Hagerman

wolf_eyesOK, so that’s a little cheesy. But depending on where you live in the U.S., it may seem the Big Bad Wolf is trying hard to blow your house down this year—making affordable home insurance difficult to find.

According to a news bulletin from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, better known as NOAA, an increase in water temperatures and other strange weather trends currently being experienced by certain parts of the country is caused by what’s known as El Nino.

As you’ll read in this news article on our site,  El Nino triggers uncharacteristic storms and other weather patterns, leading to more home insurance claims and, often, higher homeowners insurance rates in affected areas.

Recently, Forbes.com released a list of the top 10 most expensive states to insure a home. We recommend you check it out here on our site, regardless where you live. If you’re in one of the states with the highest home insurance rates, it will tell you what you can expect to pay for homeowners protection and why.

Of course, shopping your insurance at InsureMe.com can help you get the best deals—and ensure that local insurance companies give you their lowest quotes and compete for your business. Here at InsureMe, we’re all about saving you money.

Scientists say El Nino could continue affecting weather conditions in the U.S. for up to a year to come. So protect the investment you have in your home with the right homeowners insurance, while doing everything possible to keep the Big Bad Wolf at bay. Your home is just too valuable not to.

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Nature’s Most Violent Storms

June 25th, 2009 by Penny Hagerman

One of the most frequently occurring weather events, tornadoes have struck southern, mid-western and plains states with fury this spring and summer.

Photo Credit: NOAA Photo Library

Photo Credit: NOAA Photo Library

As we’ve nervously watched weather reports, listened for tornado watches and warnings, and headed to our basements or cellars when necessary, we’ve begun to realize just how vicious these storms can be.

Referred to by experts as nature’s most violent and devastating storms, tornadoes can cause fatalities and devastate neighborhoods in seconds, says the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Along with that kind of risk for damage and injury comes higher home insurance rates in tornado-prone areas.

Consider these facts, courtesy of FEMA:

  • Tornadoes may strike quickly, with little or no warning.
  • They’re most frequently reported east of the Rocky Mountains during the spring and summer months.
  • Though they may occur at any time of day, tornadoes are most likely to occur between 3 and 9 p.m.
  • They usually move forward at an average speed of 30 mph, but they may also remain stationary or move up to 70 mph.
  • A southwest to northeast movement is most common, but they have been known to move in any direction.
  • Peak tornado season is March through May in southern states and late spring through early summer in the north.

As an Oklahoma native growing up in a region of the country known as ‘tornado alley,’ I will never take the power of tornadoes for granted.

In fact, having lived through more tornado sightings than I can count on both hands, I can personally testify to the fear and panic that sets in when you hear that ‘train’ pass overhead—or see it tear a path through the middle of a neighborhood, taking inanimate objects, homes, pets and people right along with it.

Those are nightmares best left to your dreams…unless, of course, you’re a weather watcher!

Because of tornadoes’ destructive nature and the possibility of injury and harm they carry, we recommend you keep your eyes on the skies this summer. Meanwhile, check out Jeb’s article, “5 Fascinating Facts about Tornadoes.” Should you ever face a life-threatening tornado in the future, you might just learn something from the past that will help you survive.

And please; if tornadoes threaten your home or safety, don’t try to ride out the storm. Take those dark skies and high winds seriously, and take cover!

More Tornado Resources:

Frequently Asked Questions about Tornadoes

Tornado Trivia Quiz

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When Wildlife Invades

April 10th, 2009 by Penny Hagerman

Coyote on a Spring DayIf you’ve ever gone camping and accidentally left a sack of food out overnight, you know how much critters like coyotes, raccoons and skunks love to forage through our discards for scraps—and anything else they can get their paws on.

Place your trash next to the garbage can outside your home and you’ll often get the same results.

Just like us, animals of all shapes and sizes have to eat, feed their babies and find a safe, warm place to curl up and sleep. But when they take up residence in our homes, yards, attics or trash cans, that’s where most people draw the line.

Sometimes animals wander onto our property and cause damage to our homes in an effort to eat or get inside. That’s where prevention becomes important, for our own safety, the animal’s, and for the sake of our home insurance, which pays to repair the damage when animals cross into the space where we live and work.

Recent news reports document animals like hungry coyotes venturing into suburban neighborhoods like never before in search of food. And  mountain dwellers sometimes witness bears trying to enter their homes for the very same reason.

Instances like these can pose a threat to the safety of both man and beast.

To avoid crossing paths with nature at home, we need to take steps to make our homes and properties secure and less inviting—to small and large animals alike.

If wildlife in your area seem to gravitate toward your home, try:

  • Checking your home’s exterior for holes, gaps and other points of entry or exit
  • Placing fencing around areas of the property you want to protect
  • Putting trash in closed containers with secure lids

For more ideas on keeping wildlife away, check out our article titled, When Animals Invade: Crossing Paths with Nature at Home. And if you have any stories to share on the subject, we’d love to hear them!

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What Is Insurance For?

April 6th, 2009 by Jeb Foster

Last week, a visitor to our web site submitted the following question (we’re taking questions now—ask yours here):

If a tree in my yard falls on neighbor’s roof, does my insurance pay for the damage? What if a tree is ready to fall down on my house—will my insurance company pay to remove the tree?

It’s a good question, and I suspect that it’s one that many homeowners have, and like most questions involving insurance, there are more shades of grey than appears at first blush. Read the answer here.

But the second question—will my insurer pay to have a weak tree removed—points to a very common misconception about insurance in general, and this misunderstanding centers around this seemingly straightforward question: What is insurance for?

While insurance has changed over the years, it still retains its original purpose: to insulate people from the destructive and costly whims of man and nature.

Actually, the addition of “man” (aka Homo litigious) to the mix is relatively new. Most of the big property-casualty insurers (the ones insuring your homes and cars) started out providing insurance to Midwestern farmers, who were (and still are) victim to the cruel hand of mother nature. (The addition of liability coverage came with our country’s gradual embrace of lawsuits as a cash-acquisition strategy.)

Anyway, back to the point. Insurance is supposed to cover us in the event of accident or extreme weather event or other calamity that would be financially perilous. It is not meant to pay for things we’d simply rather not pay for, like tree removal, for example. That would count as maintenance, and if insurers got in the business of paying to maintain houses, well, they’d either go bankrupt or raise your premiums by 1000 percent.

Insurers get a lot of flack, and some of it is earned. But some of their unpopularity comes from a basic misunderstanding of what insurance is supposed to cover.

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