A Deeper Look

When anyone searches for just about anything on the internet, most of us tend to rely on user reviews.  We all have our own systems, with some people looking for how many, while others will only look to read the poor ones.  But what about the fake ones?  When speaking of contractors, since that’s what we are, there are a few tell tale signs to know if the reviews they’re getting are fake.

  1.  Companies will have many positive reviews shortly after getting a few bad ones.  You can easily see this by scrolling through the reviews and looking at when the positive reviews were left.  If a company gets a bad review on Google, you may notice 6 to 10 positive reviews within the next week or so, all lumped together in an attempt to drive the bad reviews further down the line.
  2.  Their reviews all sound the same.  In water damage restoration, you may see dozens of reviews all left at the same time claiming breaks in water lines and flooded homes.  And although this can happen, it’s very unlikely to all happen in the middle of the night and in the middle of the summer.
  3.  The users leaving the reviews only have one review.  It does happen, but it’s also uncommon for a person to take ample amount of time to write a great and lengthy review, and then never have done the same for anyone else.  This sometimes is a sign of new accounts being started just to write a review.
  4.  They’re number of reviews get lost.  Once Google goes through routine checks of companies through their service, you may notice a company who once had 20 reviews, now only showing 14.  That’s because Google marked those reviews as suspicious, and removed them.
  5.  They all sound the same.  When the same person is creating fake accounts and writing fake reviews, eventually they’ll start sounding the same.  They’ll use the same examples, or phrases and even misspell the same words.  You can easily spot this by the lengthy praises they give the company while using the same words like, “Fantastic, Outstanding, Life Saving,” etc.

Be sure to thoroughly do your due diligence when hiring anyone, just the same as you would for a purchase.  Reading all the reviews will help you tremendously, especially the bad ones, while also looking at the time line of when they were posted.

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Choosing The Right Deductible

A deductible is the amount of money a policyholder must pay out-of-pocket toward damages or a loss before their insurance company will pay for a claim. You do not actually pay your deductible to your insurance company like you would a premium or bill. If you file a claim and it is covered, the deductible is subtracted from the amount claimed. For example, say you have a $500 deductible and you file a claim for $10,000. Your insurance company would pay you $9,500 for that claim.

There are generally two types of deductibles: a dollar-amount and a percentage based. The difference between them is how your deductible is calculated, and there are a couple of nuances depending on how much your home is valued at. Once calculated, the amount a homeowner pays if they file a claim is fixed for the length of that policy.

Your home insurance deductible should be as high as you can reasonably afford because the higher your deductible, the lower the cost of your premium. Raising your deductible can reduce the cost of your homeowners insurance premium as much as 20%, but that does not mean you should raise your deductible as high as possible.

When choosing a deductible, what you’re really doing is balancing the short-term cost you can afford (your deductible) and the long-term cost of a policy (your premiums). The more you can afford in the short-term, the more you’ll save in the long-term because your premiums will be lower. Insurance companies design the products this way to encourage homeowners to assume more of their own risk and to reduce administrative costs for small claims. For example, the premiums would be higher for a policy that has a $500 deductible versus a $1,000 deductible because the policyholder elected to assume greater financial risk. They would have to pay $1,000 toward a claim instead of $500 if they had to file one.

There are other reasons it makes sense to raise your deductible. Every insurance company is different but typically if you file a claim for any amount, the cost of your premium will increase because you’ve essentially become a riskier and costlier homeowner to insure. And the more claims you file, the higher your premium will be. For that reason, there are circumstances in which even if you have a low deductible, it might not be in your best financial interest to file a claim.

For example, say you have a $500 home insurance deductible. If wind destroys a small part of your roof and causes $1,000 in damages, you probably shouldn’t file a claim if you can afford to pay for the damages out-of-pocket. Yes, you could have your insurance company cover the $500 after your deductible but the cost of your premium might increase. That increase might be small or large, depending on the amount claimed and especially the number of claims you’ve made. If you file multiple claims, the cost of your premiums could go up as much as 25% or more and you never know what what the future holds. After the small wind damage, hail could destroy your roof entirely and a tornado could damage your home a month later. All of a sudden you haven’t made it through the spring of one calendar year and you’ve already filed three claims. So if you’re in a financial position to consider paying for small damages or losses out-of-pocket, then you should increase your deductible and lower your monthly premiums. If you remain claim-free for usually three years, companies can lower your premium rate.

Keep in mind that many insurance companies offer a one-time discount to customers who have never filed a home insurance claim. The discount might lower the cost of a standard policy anywhere from 5 to 20% depending on the company. If you file a claim and negate that discount, the cost of your premium will increase.

You should also keep in mind your emergency or available funds with an eye toward paying your deductible. While raising it can drop your rates, it should not do so at the cost of financial stress. Everyone should have a liquid emergency fund in the event of unpredictable circumstances. A homeowners insurance deductible might be one of those so consider what you you have saved for an emergency when choosing your deductible. At the same time, it’s not a good idea for your deductible to entirely wipe out the savings you’ve set aside for an emergency. You might need additional emergency funds at the time you have to file a homeowners insurance claim. For example, say a fire or tornado destroys half of your home and it is uninhabitable. Most homeowners policies also offer additional living expense coverage to take care of hotels bills, restaurant meals and other expenses. But what if you reach your limits for those expenses or need money for another emergency? If your deductible consumes your entire emergency savings, you might not have the money to cover those expenses.

MoldSolutions24-7.com

Spring To Do List – Part 2

Finishing off our two part series on Spring Maintenance for your home, we leave you with some of the most important exterior issues to address each year.

Exterior Upkeep
Your window screens aren’t the only parts of your home that can fall victim to nasty winter weather, so you may want to take stock of your home’s condition. The National Center for Healthy Housing suggests that in the springtime, you may want to consider these outdoor maintenance projects:

Check your roof shingles. This should be done by a professional, as working on the roof can be dangerous without the proper training. You should ask the professional to make sure the shingles are not curling or clawing. If they are, they may be susceptible to leaks and should be replaced, says BobVila.com.

Replace rotten siding or trim. Make sure your home’s siding and trim aren’t damaged from windy, icy conditions. If your home is made of brick or stucco, look for any crumbling or deteriorated mortar. If you find a problem, contact a professional for help with repairing or replacing the damaged materials.

Clean gutters and downspouts. You’re making sure the inside of your home is clean; why not make sure your gutters are, as well? Get rid of any leaves or other debris that accumulated during the winter to make sure your gutters and downspouts are ready to take on those April showers. This job, too, is best left to a professional, as climbing on a ladder is required.

So, now’s the time to get those spring maintenance projects under way. By the time those May flowers start to bloom, you will be able to enjoy them with peace of mind knowing your home maintenance is up to date.

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Multiple Sclerosis Month

Multiple sclerosis and the MS movement – everyone engaged in addressing the challenges of MS today while moving toward long-term solutions for tomorrow – become better known each year. But more must be done. Together we are stronger when it comes to increasing awareness and support to create a world free of MS.

You can help ensure that more people understand what life with MS can be like, and engage more people to do something about it. When we connect with one another, we become stronger than MS — we make breakthroughs that we could not do alone.

What is a breakthrough? It’s being able button your shirt in the morning. It’s walking to the supermarket, and all the way back home. It’s getting back up on that bike, that surfboard, that horse. It’s having the first dance at your daughter’s wedding. Feeling strong enough to fall in love. Continuing that job you were made for.

Please share your breakthrough stories on any social media with the hashtag #WeareStrongerthanMS. During MS Awareness Week and throughout the year, we’ll bring your post together with those shared by others across the nation, at wearestrongerthanMS.org, where all can find solutions, strength and inspiration through collective experiences.

World MS Day unites individuals and organizations from around the world to raise awareness and move us closer to a world free of MS. The theme for 2017 is ‘Life with MS.’ In 2009, the Multiple Sclerosis International Federation (MSIF) and its members initiated the first World MS Day. Together we have reached hundreds of thousands of people around the world, with a campaign focusing on a different theme each year.

MSIF provides a toolkit of free resources to help everyone to take part in World MS Day. Anyone can use these tools, or make their own, to create positive change in the lives of more than 2.3 million people around the world.

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Preventing Water Damage

If you think about water damaging your home, you might conjure up an image of a hurricane, torrential rain or other natural catastrophe. The unfortunate reality is that damage that is caused when ordinary household appliances fail can be just as destructive as an extreme weather event. According to the Insurance Industry Institute, water damage accounts for billions of dollars in losses to homeowners and renters each year. It is also responsible for about 25 percent of all property insurance claims. In fact, data suggests that water is ten times more likely to damage your home than fire.

Fortunately, there are steps that you can take to help prevent water damage from appliances, and protect your home. It is helpful to understand some of the common causes of water damage, which include leaky baseboard heating, air conditioning condensation drains, and failed water heaters, washing machine hoses and plumbing.

These household appliances do not always offer warning signs until the damage has already occurred. That is why it is important to check them regularly. The simple steps below can help you protect your home from the most common causes of water damage:

  • First, know where the main water supply is located in case of emergency.
  • If you will be away from home for an extended period, shut off the water supply and drain the pipes. During the heating season, if your home is heated by an older steam heating system, consult with your heating professional to determine if it is safe to turn off the water supply for your particular heating system. Also, if your home is protected by a fire sprinkler system, do not turn off the water to this system, and maintain sufficient heat to prevent a freeze-up.
  • Consider having your air conditioning system inspected regularly by a professional. Check the drain lines annually and clean them if they are clogged.
  • Inspect water heaters, showers, tubs, toilets, sinks and dishwashers annually, and have them repaired if there are any signs of leaks or corrosion. When possible, install water heaters in areas with floor drains to minimize damage if leaks should occur.
  • Check caulking around showers, bathtubs, sinks and toilet bases, and make repairs as needed.
  • If your refrigerator has an ice machine or water dispenser, the hose between the wall and the refrigerator should be made of braided copper, which has greater cracking and corrosion resistance.
  • Check pipes for cracks and leaks. Have pipe damage fixed immediately to prevent more costly repairs in the future.
  • Check appliance hoses and plumbing fittings for breakage, crimping or bending.

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Taking Home Inventory

As we enter the New Year, it might just be the perfect time to take stock of your material possessions. Did you get a great gift for the holidays? Maybe a diamond ring, a new musical instrument or a beautiful watch? All of these items should be insured, and, just as importantly, added to your home inventory.  If a fire or major water loss should occur in your home, or if you become a victim to thieves, not having these items removed may not get you compensated.

What is a home inventory, you ask? Once created, it will be the most valuable item in your house.

The first step is to make a record of every item in your house that you would want and expect to be covered by your insurance. This list should include your computers, TVs, jewelry, antiques, china, art, furniture, gardening equipment, tools and many other things. Include serial numbers if you have them, and take pictures of each item. Mark down the item’s condition, and how much you paid for it (including a receipt image would be ideal).

Another way to approach this is to create a home inventory video. Videotape all of the valuable items in your home, making sure to zoom in on the smaller items. You should still document, whether by video, in an accompanying report or in a mobile app, their serial numbers and other identifying markers. The more specificity you include, the more likely you’ll be able to get a claim filed quickly, and at the right amount, should anything ever happen to your stuff.

In addition, there are several software programs and apps available to help you create a home inventory. However you choose to make yours, it’s important to back up this information and store a copy outside your home, just in case your home is severely damaged.

This is an opportunity to learn the real value of your items, especially art and jewelry, and serves as a reminder to get them appraised often. The value of these types of items can go up over time, so you should also make sure they are insured for the right amount. Be sure to check with your independent agent that your policy covers all your belongings, even the most personal and valuable items.

After a Claim

After a claim has been filed, and if you filed the claim yourself, your work is not finished. You have to be diligent when filing a claim in a water loss, or any loss for that matter, because you want to be sure you’re getting what you deserve.  Here’s a short list of things to do after a claim has been filed:

Reviewing the Claim Process

After you’ve reported the claim, the following steps will take place:

  • The loss report is assigned a claim number and assigned to a claims handler.
  • A property adjuster will contact you to confirm the facts of the loss. This may include an inspection of the damaged property. The adjuster will then determine if coverage applies, and, if so, evaluate the damages.
  • After the claim is initiated, the adjuster or claims handler will check on the progress of the claim and make every effort to efficiently complete the process. Some claims can be settled quickly. Others—especially those involving severe damages—may take longer.

Keeping Track of the Details

To help stay organized and involved, you may want to maintain a file regarding your homeowners insurance claim/loss that includes the following:

  • Customer’s name as it appears on the policy
  • Policy number
  • Claim number
  • Claim handler or adjuster’s name, mailing address, phone number and title
  • Estimates, correspondence and notes of phone conversations regarding the claims settlement

Keep this file with you. Wherever you talk to your homeowners insurance claims handler or adjuster—at home or at work—your documentation will help ensure the claim is processed in a timely, accurate manner.

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