9 home insurance coverages you should have and 2 you should discuss with your insurance agent

Homeowners insurance is kind of like cars. You have the base year, make, model and then you have add-ons. A car can come with a package or a group of features or you can add features a la carte. Homeowners insurance is similar, but more complex. A home insurance policy comes with the basics which I cover in this video. You should never purchase the basic policy without looking into the add-ons. If you are not sure what home insurance coverage you should have, here is a list of the top 9 coverages or endorsements you should have in your home insurance policy and 2 you should ask your insurance agent about.

Special Coverage for Dwelling –Insurance professionals may call this allrisks or open perils but it refers to the same coverage. A basic home insurance policy is typically written to include only 16 types of claims. However, if you add this coverage or endorsement it will open the policy to cover home claims, excluding 11 types of claims. Essentially you can have a policy that only covers claims that are listed or have a policy with 11 exclusions.

Special Coverage for Personal Property – Like the coverage for dwelling you can have either specific claims covered or specific claims excluded.

Replacement Cost for Dwelling – Without Replacement Cost coverage the policy would settle claims based on actual cash value. Most home owners want to be put back to their original home condition versus less. Furthermore when you have Replacement Cost coverage on your dwelling you should have an additional limit or cushion available should you need more than the dwelling amount for a total rebuild of your home. I recommend at least 150% to start.

Replacement Cost for Personal Property – Without this coverage claims would be settled on a depreciated value basis. Most people do not want to buy used personal items or shop at Good Will. If you want new for old then you will need this coverage.

Water Back-Up coverage – a homeowners policy does not include coverage for the back-up and overflow of drains inside your home without adding this coverage to the policy. Any drainage systems inside your home can back-up and overflow causing damage to not only the interior of your home but also to personal items. According to iPropertyManagement the average amount for a home water claim is $10,000.

Personal Injury – While many of us would not purposely attack another person you could be potentially accused or sued for it. This coverage may include slander, libel, defamation of character, invasion of privacy, mental anguish, assault, etc. Without this coverage you would be out of pocket for an attorney to defend you whether the accusations were true or not.

Identity Fraud – This type of event is so common place today that we are almost immune when it is announced that there was data breach. That being said such an event can be damaging to any one, with long term financial consequences. This coverage is minimal cost and worth having.

Service Line Coverage – Our homes are connected to an infrastructure of water lines. There are some areas of Baltimore and Maryland that are older and more susceptible to failure. A water line on your property that collapses causing water to back flow into your home can damage not only the inside of your home but personal items as well. The local community, city, and county will not fit the bill. Ultimately the home owner will if this coverage is not added to your home policy.

Equipment Breakdown – Homeowners insurance is not a warranty program. If an internal appliance, such as the HVAC system fails, the homeowners insurance will not pay to repair or replace the system. Insurance companies have gotten wise to the issues that come with home ownership and the cost of new appliances today. Without this valuable coverage you will be out of pocket to repair or replace your appliances should they fail.

Bonus Coverages:

Loss Assessment – It is very common for communities to have homeowners associations. If a severe weather event were to occur and damage portions of the community the by laws of the homeowners associations may allow them to charge back to home owners in the community an amount to cover damages. Without the appropriate amount of coverage you could be out of pocket thousands of dollars.

Ordinance & Law –  Following on Loss Assessments homeowners associations may also require that your home have a certain esthetic look; roof type, siding, etc. This is common in golf communities. Also for homes located in coastal areas, mountainous terrain, etc. you may need to build to a certain code dictated by the city, county or state.

While this is not an all-inclusive list these are the coverages or endorsements that are added and/or discussed with my clients when reviewing their home insurance policy or quoting alternative options. Some of these coverages are new and were created as a result of the changing times. Some of these coverages have always been available but not used by agents. Regardless, as a home owner you should be aware of the various options available and discuss with your insurance agent on the best ways to protect your home.

If you haven’t reviewed your home insurance policy recently its time to call your insurance agent. A good agent will not only review your current policy for coverage gaps but discuss ways to fill those gaps.

It’s all about how a company makes you feel not how cheap their products or service are.

I am a stickler for good customer service. I work diligently to make sure I anticipate my client’s needs and wants. After all if it doesn’t feel right to me it certainly is not right by the customer. My husband and I are on the search for a Recreational Vehicle/Camper Trailer. We camp frequently and enjoy getting away from it all as much as possible. I recently called an RV dealer and was not pleased. My initial response to my husband after the first call to them is, I don’t like them. I called, yes someone answered on the first ring. I said I am looking for a specific camper trailer. They immediately transferred me to rentals. At least that is what the person who answered said. I hung up and called again. The same person answered on the first ring. I said I am looking to purchase a specific camper trailer that I believe you have in stock and I would like to see. They said they would put me on hold for a second. Next thing I know I am in someone’s voicemail being asked to leave a message. I call a third time and the same person answers for the third time. I specifically say it is my third time calling to look into seeing a specific camper trailer to buy. They said no one was available. I was then transferred to the same voicemail again. I left a voicemail for someone 3 days ago.

So my problem you see is that I don’t want to buy from them now. I don’t really care how much they are willing to discount the price of my purchase. The issue for me is I want a relationship with them because in reality if something goes wrong before, during or after the purchase I want to know I will be taken care of. The RV will need to be serviced at some point and there is a chance for warranty issues. Why would I buy from someone that I can’t build a strong relationship with or trust? I probably won’t. Would you spend top dollar to buy your dream car knowing that if there is a problem you won’t get a call back from them. Heck no!

I live and breathe the insurance industry. I read articles, listen to podcasts and totally geek out reading policy forms all for the love of my clients. From the first interaction to every interaction I want them to know that I am there, lurking in the background, in a not so creepy sort of way. I will call them if they leave me a voicemail. I will respond to an email if they have a question. I want them to feel a human on the other end of their phone, tablet, or computer. Now can you be sure you will get that if you are getting quotes for insurance online? How do you know you are being taken care if you are chatting with a chat bot? Have you ever done a chat session with a provider when you are already upset with them cause there is a problem? It just makes you want to scream. I know. I have done it.

If you want to purchase your insurance in a more digital space, awesome, amazing. I am right there with you. However there are plenty of independent insurance agents that are living, breathing, human beings providing digital tools and resources to their clients that are just dying to build a living, breathing, human relationship with you. They want to talk about your family, your career, your hobbies and really build an insurance program just for you. Something special and individualized. They are not in the business of signature stamping the same policy over and over again for every person walking in the door.

If you are looking for insurance then Google independent insurance agent in your local area and I can guarantee you there will be at least one right around the corner. They are not all the same so you should certainly call around and see if they put you on hold or drop you into voicemail when you are ready to buy but I beg you not to Google insurance and go with the first advertisement that promises you the cheapest rates in town. Cheap is not necessarily a good thing and when the cheap policy leaves you stranded on the side of the road you will wish you were on a first name basis with your insurance agent and could just call and talk through your frustration. So call your local independent insurance agent today and build a relationship that you can count on!

What are the steps to an insurance claim? Fight!

When it comes to insurance claims there a few simple steps to follow…

  • Get to safety. Move your vehicle out of the flow of traffic.
  • Confirm everyone is okay and call 9-1-1 if medical attention is needed.
  • Call police if anyone is hurt, a party flees the scene, or you are uncomfortable with the situation.
  • Determine drivability of vehicles. Call for a tow truck if necessary.
  • Exchange insurance, vehicle, and driver info. For the claim.
  • Do not admit fault for the incident.
  • Report the claim once you arrive home safely.

There is one part of the claim that is not covered but I feel is absolutely necessary… Fight for your claim!

Lately I have had a bad run of insurance claims and bad claims experiences. For that reason I feel the last step for a new claim should be to fight. If you are not 200% satisfied with your claim, then fight. If you do not feel you are being treated fairly. Fight! If you do not feel you are being put back to where you were before the claim. Then fight! Do not let your claim just run its course without questioning each aspect of the claim.

Here are a few of my own personal claim experiences…

  • A claim adjustor attempted to electronically transfer funds to my personal bank account to have a new roof put on by a contractor selected by the claim adjustor. A contractor I did not know or had even heard of before. I had to get three estimates from three other contractors due to a discrepancy in cost. The other estimates were all higher than the claim adjustor’s contractor and the claim adjustor still insisted on their own estimate.

***You do not need to accept the estimate or the contractor recommended by the claim adjustor. You also are not required to get more than one estimate for the necessary repairs, and estimates should be free.

  • A claim adjustor telling me I did not request OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) glass in my vehicle. I had to remind the claim adjustor that their calls were recorded for “quality training purposes” and they should listen to the call when I reported the claim and repeatedly requested OEM glass for my vehicle.

***If you are paying additional money for OEM parts or other added coverages for your vehicle then you are entitled to use those coverages during the claim. You should not accept less than what you paid for. Knowing what is included in your policy and understanding how the policy should perform is important during the claim process. An insurance agent is a huge resource for this.

  • A claim adjustor telling me it only costs $300 for a plain piece of glass for the back window of my vehicle that is manufacturer tinted, on a hinge system, with a heating element, and an open sensor.

***Find a body shop that you know, like, and trust to do excellent work, can complete the work timely, and can help you manage the claim process. You are not required to use the preferred or recommended body shop from your insurance company. They may not know the intricacies of your vehicle. Also have an excellent mechanic that you know, like, and trust if there are issues with your vehicle during and after the claim, you may want your mechanic to be involved.

  • A claim adjustor declining to accept a claim for their policyholder that was drinking and driving and struck my parked, unoccupied vehicle in the middle of night, which was confirmed by a police report.

*** You can report it to your own insurance company and they will subrogate against the responsible party on your behalf. They may even waive your deductibles if they are able to get the other insurance company to accept fault for the claim.

I have been involved with hundreds of claims and appreciate the knowledge I gain from each any every claim. However, I believe everyone should be treated fairly, that the claim process should be stress free, and you should be put back the way you were before the claim. This is what I want for everyone. I don’t think you are asking too much of your insurance company.

My role is not to just to sell an insurance policy, my job is to advocate on your behalf to make sure you are treated right and are happy at the end of the day. This goes for the policy and claims.

This is not a bash on insurance companies or the insurance industry. Insurance companies due wonderful things for their policyholders (they are giving premium refunds to their policyholders right now), and there are absolutely wonderful claim adjusters out there. I have spoken to many of them. I am just an insurance professional providing insurance policies for 20+ years that is frustrated by the claims process. If I am frustrated then I know I am not alone with that complaint.

I can not guarantee you that you will get everything you want or will be 200% satisfied every time but you should not take a claim process laying down. You should not go with the flow. Your home, your vehicle, your business is an asset. It is an investment. It is an investment in you. Take control of your claim and fight!

Googling homeowners insurance could spell disaster for you.

Have your ever Googled your symptoms even though you know you should’nt only to find out you are dying in the next five minutes?!?

I have done it. I was recently diagnosed with a difficult form of eczema but had convinced myself after Googling my symptoms that I had skin cancer. After hemming and hawing I decided to put on my big girl pants and talk to a professional – my dermatologist. She quickly settled my nerves and told me that greasy lotion was my new best friend and that feeling like a greased pig was a new way of life now.

That’s like Googling home insurance and going with the first website that promises you cheap home insurance. It may seem easier and less stressful to do it yourself but you don’t really know what you need or what’s available. Only an professional can do that.

According to a study completed by JD Power in 2016 74% of new insurance purchasers will begin the buying process online. Of those consumers 25% will purchase insurance online. The rest use other methods, such as insurance agents or insurance company call centers. Now consider that 60% of homes in the US are under insured as stated by Marshall & Swift/Boeckh, and per Insurance Information Institute 1 in 20 homes will have a home claim each year. Those are some scary statistics from my perspective.

I know asking for help is difficult sometimes. My husband easily comes to mind when it comes to asking for help, asking for directions, or visiting a doctor. Hearing, “Honey, you were right.” always feels good. There is a reason there are doctors and there is a reason why there are Insurance Agents. It’s because we need them.

You may think by Googling and searching through a couple options that you have the right insurance. You can’t tell from seeing a few websites what you are getting until you are knee deep in a claim and you are hearing the word “denial” from your claim adjustor when you realize you may need a professional.

You are not paying extra money by using an Insurance Agent. You are asking for some one to build a relationship and trust with you. You are asking for an Insurance Agent to help you insure your home and auto adequately and to educate you about what is available to you. So ask for help and don’t go it alone. You will be glad you have some one to call if and when something happens.

What is Personal Insurance vs. Commercial Insurance?

Insurance is complicated as I have said before. There is sometimes confusion as to what type of policy you may need. There are a variety of policies out there and only a Insurance Agent can help you navigate to the right insurance program for you.

Typically a business has a few characteristics that leads to commercial policies. This includes a business name or entity, its purpose is to generate money or profits, they employ others, and have clients/customers/policyholders/members. If you tick any of these items then you will be looking at a variety of commercial policies such as the following:

  • General Liability                           
  • Workers Compensation
  • Product Liability
  • Business Property
  • Employment Practices
  • Errors & Omissions
  • Directors & Officers
  • Inland Marine
  • Business Auto
  • Cyber Liability
  • Crime
  • Bond
  • Commercial Umbrella
  • Boiler & Machinery
  • Pollution
  • Medical Malpractice
  • Builders Risk
  • Business Interruption

In the case of personal, assets are owned by an individual or a married couple. They do not have employees or clients. In some situations there may be a business entity but this will be scrutinized by the insurance company. There may also be a situation where a home owner rents out their home to others for money but this will also be reviewed by the insurance company for acceptability. Personal Insurance includes the following types of policies:

  • Homeowners
  • Personal Auto
  • Vacation Homes
  • Investment Properties
  • Rental Properties
  • Vacant Properties
  • Collections Insurance
  • Umbrella Insurance
  • Boats
  • Yachts

  • Jet Skis
  • Motor Homes
  • Mobile Homes
  • Trailers
  • Campers
  • ATVs
  • Motorcycles
  • Scooters
  • Snow Mobiles
  • Drones

Sometimes you will find cross over between personal and commercial policies but only an Insurance Agent can guide you to the right policy for what you are trying to accomplish. Take for example the individual that came to me in need of a home insurance policy for their home that also housed a reptile rescue sanctuary with employees. Apparently this did not come up in conversation with the prior agent and the insurance company was now cancelling the policy. This does not fit the typical profile of a home owners insurance policy and therefore was forced to purchase a commercial program. There is also the case of an individual purchasing a vehicle in the name of a LLC which they also use the for personal reasons. Based on the insurance companies review of the occupation of the driver and the business exposure it did not qualify for a personal auto policy and was instead covered by commercial auto insurance policy.

Insurance as a whole is not black and white. It is not one size fits all. Each situation is unique and policies are placed on a case by case basis. Sometimes the decision is the not Insurance Agent’s but the insurance company’s decision. Keep in mind your Insurance Agent is your front line person to place a policy that will respond the way you need it to at the time of a claim. Only they can help you find the best policy for your situation.

11 Reasons to Work with Avant-Garde Insurance Advisors

For 20 years I worked tirelessly for insurance agencies receiving little appreciation for my contribution to the agency or the industry. I dazzled their clients and bonded with their prospects like no insurance agent could. I aspired to continue to grow, improve, and give back while insurance agencies were unwilling to create necessary change within the agency and the industry. A year ago I struck out on my own to create an insurance agency different from others. An agency that challenges how people view insurance; as a commodity, as a necessary evil, as a conspiracy. Avant-Garde Insurance Advisors is not another insurance agent, we are an Insurance Advisor. Below is why Avant-Garde Insurance Advisors is not an insurance agent.

  • I will challenge the thought that insurance is a commodity every day. Insurance is not a one size fits all. Every policy is different. Each insurance company has its own appetite for the preferred policyholder. Reading an insurance policy requires an insurance and/or legal background. Not all insurance claims are covered and/or go smoothly.
  • I will continue to learn about insurance every day. Not because the state of Maryland says I must but because I want to give you the most up to date information that is available to me. Yes, continuing education sucks but it is a necessary evil in order to give you my best. The insurance industry constantly changes, and I want to be at the forefront on behalf of my clients.
  • I will share with you my insurance knowledge. I am not a gatekeeper of insurance knowledge but I do live and breathe insurance each day and I want to help you better understand insurance so you can make a more informed insurance decision.
  • I will provide consistent oversight over your account and make you aware as soon as possible of issues or concerns. I will also provide you options on how to handle your insurance needs. I will steward your account as if it were my own.
  • I will advocate on your behalf with the insurance company to treat you fairly. The insurance company needs to make a profit. You need to maintain your livelihood.
  • I will communicate the timeline for completing your request and I will stick to it. Insurance does not happen at the push of a button – if done right.
  • I will be honest with you. If I make a mistake, I will tell you. I will also tell you how I am working to correct it. I am only human, but I value you as a person.
  • I will tell you how it is and not sugar coat if you are jeopardizing your insurance future. It is not in your best interest or my best interest if we are not open with each other.
  • I will not bend rules or lie to another party for a client. I cannot in good conscious jeopardize my livelihood or my family for another person.
  • I will not offer you the cheapest insurance program just to beat your current insurance program. Any one can offer you a cheaper policy by cutting coverage or not give you all the information. My job is to give you the best coverage for you.
  • I will work to earn your business every day. Insurance is a relationship business, not a sales business. Tell me about your work, your spouse, your kids, your hobbies. I want to know who you are.

If you want more than an insurance agent, if you want more than an insurance transaction, if you want something different start working with an Insurance Advisor at Avant-Garde Insurance Advisors today!

Halloween Fun & Safety!

Tomorrow is officially Halloween 2019. Many kids are eagerly awaiting this big day. In preparation below are some tips for keeping the holiday fun and safe.

Tips for home owners:

  • Keep walk ways clear of debris and leaves to reduce the chance of slip and falls.
  • Have the walk way to your home clearly marked and if possible lit.
  • Keep pets crated or in another room to reduce the chance of your pet escaping or a child being injured if your pet nips or jumps.
  • When giving out candy to small children you may wish to confirm with the parent if the child can have hard candy that may cause choking and/or candy with peanuts or milk that could cause an allergic reaction
  • When traveling go extra slow in communities and where you see trick or treaters.

Tips for trick or treaters:

  • Keep costumes at ankle length or shorter to prevent trips and falls.
  • Wear a light or other device to make others aware of your presence when walking sidewalks, walkways, driveways, roads, etc.
  • Remove face masks and covers when walking from home to home to reduce injury.
  • Make sure you monitor your small children with their candy to make sure they do not consume it before you have had the chance to inventory it.

The photos above are my minions over the years. I am excited to capture an image of them for my collection tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Why Do I Need Renters Insurance?

For many their first home is a rental unit or an apartment. I also did this for a few years. When you go to sign the leasing agreement the leasing office will require proof that you have renters insurance. This is the main reason you purchase renters insurance.

The second reason to purchase reason is to protect you, the renter. There are a few coverages that are important for a renter of a unit or an apartment to have.

  • Contents or Personal Property – This is all the stuff you put into the unit/apartment; furniture, clothing, pots/pans/dishes, electronics, etc. If you lose everything in a fire will you have the money to replace all of your personal belongings?
  • Loss of Use – If you have a covered claim and you are unable to live in your unit/apartment. This coverage will cover the cost of a hotel, apartment, etc. temporarily. You will still be responsible for the rent on your unit/apartment unless the leasing company decides to let you break lease.
  • Personal Liability – If someone slips in your unit/apartment and decides to sue you for medical costs and/or inability to work, etc. this is coverage to pay for the damages or to settle the suit. If found liable for a traumatic event your wages can be garnished by the courts if necessary.
  • Medical Payments – If the same person that slips in your unit/apartment needs medical attention this is good will dollars to get them necessary emergency care.

In addition to these standard coverages you should consider the following additional coverages.

  • Replacement Cost Coverage for Contents/Personal Property – After a covered claim you will want new furniture, clothing, etc. not used.
  • Personal Injury – If you are accused of libel, slander, defamation of character whether true or not you will want coverage which can be provided through this endorsement.
  • Identity Fraud – Now that you are taking on more responsibilities you have a higher exposure to an identity fraud event, which can have long term consequences if you are unable to undo the damage.
  • Water Back-Up – If a drainage system in your unit/apartment backs up into your home you will need coverage for the repairs and personal property damaged. You must add this endorsement to yours renters policy in order to have coverage for this type of loss. This is the #1 cause of home claims across the country.

Many renters assume the leasing company or property manager will cover the cost of a loss to your unit/apartment. The leasing office/property manage can still hold you responsible for the damages and they will not cover you for the loss of your personal belongings or your liability as the occupant of the unit/apartment.

Overall the cost of renters insurance is minimal at around $200 a year or $15 monthly. While renters insurance may feel unnecessary it is important in order to maintain your financial independence.

Why you need an insurance agent

At the end of July I had what I would call a traumatic insurance event. I was woken up one night by my husband saying the police were knocking on our door. It turns out an impaired driver had struck my SUV while parked outside our home. As I glanced out my window I could not see damage to my SUV but what I found shortly there after was my vehicle was a total loss.

My SUV immediately following the collision at 4am on July 24th.

I don’t know about other people but I loved my SUV. It took me a month to commit to buying her and I was diligent in maintaining her. I invested my time and money in maintaining the condition of my vehicle. I also enjoy the independence of having my own vehicle at my disposal at all times.

As an insurance professional I thought it would be smooth sailing but it was not. Between negotiating vehicle values to the rental car shuffle, nothing went as I thought it would. I was in four different rental vehicles while trying to get back to where I was before this claim began.

I am finally at the tail end of the claim and this is what I have learned.

  • Get towing coverage, whether through your auto insurance policy or a AAA membership. Get it! To drag my SUV onto a flat bed tow truck off of the curb the cost was over $400. Also, have the number of a tow company you trust for those 4am tow emergencies.
  • Get rental reimbursement coverage and buy it up to a minimum of $50 per day. For someone like me that drives a full size SUV with two small children in carseats and a 6’2″ tall husband you need more than the $30 per day limit. A full size SUV today is $90 per day if you are not the insurance company.
  • Know the value of your vehicle when you are reporting the claim and research similar vehicles as comparables so you are not surprised by the value the insurance company estimates.
  • In my case my gut told me my vehicle was totaled. If you have any inkling that your vehicle is totaled start finding a replacement vehicle as soon as possible. I did not want another vehicle. I delayed the process and had a hard time committing in the end.
The shock and suspension falling off the undercarriage of my vehicle.
My vehicles broken dashboard.

If you have a good insurance agent they will help guide you through the claim process and give you tips and tricks to help make it as smooth as possible. Some claims will go smoothly and others will not. When the big claim comes along you will want someone on your side to help you along the way, if not just to vent to. I don’t wish claims on any one but if a claim happens I want to be there for them.

What you need to know about selecting a home deductible.

When looking at insurance quotes our eyes automatically drift to the bottom line premium quoted. But what about all the stuff above it? Not all home quotes and/or policies are created equal. One of the key parts of a home quote and/or policy is the deductible. Below is a list of things to keep in mind as you consider a home quote and/or policy.

  • Some deductibles are flat and some deductibles are percentages. Percentages are typically used in coastal areas where there is a higher probability of wind, hurricane, etc. A percentage deductible is based on the dwelling value listed in the policy. If the dwelling value increases the deductible increases as well.
  • Some deductibles are specific to a type of coverage; Water Back-Up, Water Damage, Hurricane, Tropical Cyclone, Named Storm, Wind/Hail, etc. You may also see the term All Other Peril which means where a specific deductible is not identified the All Other Peril deductible applies.
  • A home policy can have multiple deductibles which can be a problem if a claim triggers more than one deductible. Understanding how each deductible applies at the time of a claim is important.
  • Some deductibles are dictated or required by the insurance company. This decision can be based on where the home is located, such as coastal. One insurance company may require a higher deductible than another insurance company.
  • Some home policies waive the deductible for large claims or a total loss claim. Knowing when a deductible waiver applies is important. This can be beneficial in deciding on a high deductible.
  • Some companies offer a reducing deductible if you remain claim free.

It is important when you are reviewing a home quote that you be aware of the deductibles. While a high deductible will reduce the policy premium, a high deductible can be detrimental if you can not afford the deductible at the time of a claim or the losses that occur are below the deductible. An insurance agent can help you review all the deductibles applicable to a quote and/or policy. An agent can also help you select a deductible that fits your financial situation while providing you the most advantageous premium.