Thinking about renting your house out?

Home Sharing: What you need to know

home-sharing

“Let’s put our house on VRBO!” seems to be a common phrase these days. Or maybe it is “I only use my house part of the time the rest of the time I put it on Airbnb”. This is a great idea, as long as insurance covers you right? What most people don’t realize is there could be gaps in your current policy that do not provide coverage for these specific situations.

The great news is the Insurance companies, and industry in general, is starting to adapt to this way of thinking! They are now creating policies specifically for these types of rentals. Again, this is great news as long as your insurance agent knows you are renting your home out. As much as they would like to be, insurance agents are not mind readers. They will never know if you are renting your house out until you tell them or worse, something happens and a claim is filed.

Make sure to check with your agent if you are interested in renting your house out for any period of time.

Are you properly insured?

Life is constantly changing!  Because of this, it is important to review your insurance policies to make sure you are covered for the things in your life that have changed in the past year.  For example, if you don’t tell your agent you renovated your home, or inherited your Grandmother’s silver, or paid off a car loan, how are they going to know to change your policy?!  Communication with your agent, and reviewing your policies are so important when it comes to your insurance. 

Here is a great article from The Cincinnati Insurance Companies:

http://blog.cinfin.com/2014/04/15/review-insurance-at-renewal/

7 Factors to Help Nail Down Your Home’s Reconstruction Cost

Cincinnati Insurance posted this interesting article on their website. We think everyone should read it!

“I could never sell my house for that!” How many times have we heard this said or even said it ourselves? It’s easy to experience sticker shock when we see the value our insurance company wants to place on our home.

Calculating replacement cost ̶ or more accurately, reconstruction cost ̶ is often a complicated process, and results can deviate widely from market price. It’s not unusual for rebuilding costs to be significantly higher than the cost of new construction.

Reconstruction cost is the cost to hire a contractor to replace the home as it is, in today’s marketplace using materials and design of similar quality. While the cost of materials plays a significant role in determining the valuation, many other factors need to be considered but often are overlooked.

• Site accessibility – How easy or difficult is it to get to the home and build at the current location? Larger machinery may not be feasible. Is there a steep slope? Additional reinforcement might be needed along with special equipment. Are the homes in close proximity? Driving on the neighbor’s lawn might not be an option. Materials might have to be brought in by dolly and wheelbarrow. Or, the neighborhood might have parking or work hour restrictions that aren’t a problem when constructing an entirely new development, but must be observed when reconstructing a single home.
• Age of the home – As most insurance contracts guarantee to replace the home as is, older homes may have unique features that are difficult to replace. For example, the cost of plaster is higher than drywall. Builders of today are less familiar with older construction techniques.
• Custom features – Identifying the quality of your home is very important. In the event of a loss, are items easily replaceable by purchasing from a local retail store or is a specialized contractor or boutique store order necessary? Consider whether your home has special features such as designer wallpaper, built-in cabinetry, high-end appliances, carpeting, alarm systems, built-in stereo or media systems, finished finials, or upgrades such as gold leaf ceiling detail or custom window treatments, lighting fixtures or closets.
• Building codes – A rebuilt home may have to meet building codes that were not in place when the home was first built.
• Economies of scale – A builder can receive large discounts on materials and labor when many homes are built at the same time. On the flip side, when materials and labor are scarce due to economic or weather-related conditions, costs can drastically rise. And don’t forget engineering fees, contractor fees, labor and foundation.
• Time – Rebuilding a home typically takes longer than building a new home due to homeowner involvement.
• Demolition or debris removal – After a loss, a significant amount of cleanup may be required prior to starting the rebuilding process.

A home’s value in a real estate appraisal is often influenced by market value. Market value is the value that comparable homes are being sold for in that area. In contrast, reconstruction cost is our focus – what it will cost to rebuild the home with materials of like or similar quality, in a timely manner and with a builder who is basically building the home as a custom built house. Other considerations: the builder is not working on multiple homes in same vicinity, so no builder discounts apply, and some builders may not be interested in a rebuild project after a significant loss event.

So when you see the replacement cost valuation estimate on your homeowner policy, think about everything that goes into making your house a home.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month!

May is Mental Health Awareness Month! This was started 64 years ago to raise awareness about mental health conditions and the importance of mental wellness for everyone. Mental Health America’s theme this year is “Pathway to Wellness”. Wellness is defined as “an active process of becoming aware of and making choices towards a more successful existence.” Living a “successful existence” means something different to everyone and wellness can be many things, but generally includes the pursuit of health, defined as “a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease” and working towards achieving one’s full potential.
Your pathway to wellness can include: good health, saving more money, healthy relationships, taking care of your community, etc.
There are four steps to take good care of your body and mind highlighted on the Mental Health America website (www.mentalhealthamerica.net). These steps can make a difference in how well you do in your day-to-day life.

  • A Healthy Diet—Improves Your Ability to Learn.
  • Regular Exercise—Elevates Mood, Reduces Stress, Increases Energy Level, Stimulates the Release of Endorphins and Serotonin, Which Makes You Happier.
  • Relaxation—Take Time Each Day to Unwind; Especially Before Sleeping.
  • Plenty of Rest—7-9 Hours of Sleep Each Day. Inadequate Sleep can Lead to Mood Changes and Lowered Resistance to Illness.

Other steps to help achieve wellness are: development of coping skills, emotional awareness and connections to family, friends and the community.
Fully embracing the concept of wellness not only improves health in the mind, body and spirit, but also maximizes your potential to lead a full and productive life.
May 5-11, 2013, is Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week. The theme this year is “Out of the Shadows: Exposing Stigma”. There is a need to educate the nation about children’s mental health and promote comprehensive, grass-root efforts to eradicate scrutiny, discrimination, etc. that deter our children, youth and families in need of care from seeking help. www.ffcmh.org (National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health website) has valuable information.

***Information taken from www.mentalhealthamerica.net and www.ffcmh.org

Thanks to United Counseling Service for sharing this article from their May 2013 newsletter with us.

The Dangers of Texting while Driving

April is “National Distracted Driver Month”. I wasn’t aware of this until I read an article about it in an insurance magazine. We must have a lot of distracted drivers if we get a whole month devoted to it. I did a little research on this and have been shocked at the statistics regarding people who text and drive at the same time. 62 percent of high-school students admit to texting while driving, according to a survey by Students against Drunk Driving. Of these young texters, one in four believes there’s nothing unsafe about it. This is staggering to me.

On the other hand, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) blames the use of cell phones at the wheel for some 1,000 fatalities and 240,000 nonfatal accidents every year. That’s about 25 percent of all crashes. Add to this the facts that most young people think they can easily “multi-task” and they think they’re immortal anyway, and you’ve got a huge problem. Especially if you are in the car next to them.

Safety studies by the University of Utah and other researchers show that cell-phone use alone – just talking – is a major distraction for most motorists. It takes away the driver’s concentration. It slows reaction time. It impedes both-hands-on-wheel control of the vehicle. As highway-patrol officers have frequently confirmed, it reduces performance to the level of driving drunk. Think about that – to the level of driving drunk. You wouldn’t let your kids drive drunk. Why give them a cell phone to use while driving?

What’s more, it’s not just the equipment’s fault. Hands-free cell-phone use is no safer. The real culprit is the conversation itself, especially when it involves decision making or emotional upset. There is simply no way a caller can adequately do the complex work of driving – scanning the road, monitoring traffic movements, reading road signs, adjusting speed, following distance, and other variables – while on a call.

Texting multiplies these deficits and adds a few more:
• Inputting, like any kind of writing, requires more concentration than just speaking.
• Most texters need to keep glancing at the phone’s keyboard and disregarding the road.
• Reading an incoming text message can be even more problematic, as the driver squints at the tiny screen, then scrolls to follow longer messages.
• Should the car hit a bump, the phone could fly out of the user’s hand. What then?

A study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has found that while texting, 4.6 of every 6 seconds are spent looking at the phone instead of the road. At 55 mph, that’s equivalent to driving the length of a football field blindfolded. So deciding whether to retrieve a dropped phone could literally be a matter of life or death.

States lawmakers are cracking down. Texting is now outlawed in 34 states, including Vermont. Law enforcement officers can attest to the need, reporting that texters are easy to spot on the road since they are inattentive, swerve between lanes and drive slowly.

Other counter-measures to on-road texting are also taking hold. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), has petitioned President Obama for tougher laws. Why OSHA, the occupational agency? Because much of America’s workforce is on the road daily, delivering goods and services or conducting other business activities.

In response, the President instituted the Executive Order on Federal Leadership on Reducing Text Messaging While Driving in 2009. It prohibits texting by all federal employees during official business trips.

The courts and insurers are likewise adjusting to the spread of the texting habit. Phone-related accidents and injuries, whether caused by talking or texting, are seen as forms of driver negligence, in some cases on a par with DWI (“driving while impaired”) offenses. Increasingly, victims of such crimes are eligible to receive compensation for their losses.

Safety statistics, here and abroad, make it clear that texting and talking, whether hands-on or handsfree, make cell-phone use a major threat to public safety. But in the age of hand-held electronics, will the trend-setting Uncle Sam follow the lead of Great Britain, Japan, Chile, and more than a dozen other nations in banning these practices? The question remains open.

Call Finn & Stone, Inc. today. We have been doing business in Vermont for over 50 years so very little surprises us, including what people do while driving. Don’t hesitate to contact your agent at Finn & Stone for ways to instill good driving habits in your family or to discuss all your insurance needs.