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Modesto, CA Protect and Secure Your Home, Home Safety

Modesto, CA Home Improvement Guide



Protecting Your Home
Burglar Alarm Systems & Detection Devices; Fire Alarm Systems; Lead Testing & Consulting; Lead Removal & Abatement; Asbestos Abatement & Removal Service; Insurance; Homeowners Insurance

The safety and well being of your family is priceless. There are a number of threats attacking your family’s physical and emotional security and safeguarding them is essential.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a burglary takes place every 14.2 seconds. Other burglary statistics include:

  • Burglary represented 22.7% of the estimated number of property crimes committed in 2008
  • 70.3% of all burglaries occurred in residential properties
  • Of all burglaries, 61.2% involved forcible entry, 32.3% were unlawful entries (without force), and the remainder (6.4%) were forcible entry attempts
  • The average dollar loss per burglary was $2,079
  • 51.5% of all residential burglaries occurred in the daytime, 20.5% of burglaries had no know timeframe
  • (Source: U.S. Department of Justice – Federal Bureau of Investigations – Crime in the United States, 2008)

Knowing these facts, along with implementing several preventative measures can help protect your home and keep a burglary from happening to you.

Other home dangers such as fire, poisoning and drowning can also be prevented by eliminating hazards and developing a family plan. This section will address these dangers and provide solid solutions to protect your home and avoid exposure to harmful threats.


Home Security
Alarm Systems; Security Services & Systems; Security Guard & Patrol Services; Security Systems Consultants

A number of simple measures can be implemented to immediately protect your home against burglary. Many of these do not involve a large amount of money and can be completed with little time and effort. The more difficult you make it to break into the home the less likely it will become a target. Burglars are looking for a quick, effortless target and will move on if a home is well protected. Review the list below and begin today to protect your home and family. Often simple tasks make a huge difference.

  • Lock all doors and windows when leaving your house
  • Close the garage door after entering your house
  • Place blinds, curtains or protective film on garage windows so no one can see inside
  • Remove valuables from your car even when it is in the garage
  • Change locks and tumblers when moving into a new home, or if you lose your keys
  • Confirm all entrance lights are bright and operational
  • Add lighting if areas are too dim
  • Ensure deadbolt locks are installed on all entry doors
  • Keep shrubs and trees trimmed back from doors and windows, eliminate a place for intruders to hide
  • Plant thorny bushes and shrubs under windows to prevent intruders from hiding in those areas
  • Place lights and radios on timers when no one is home to create the impression someone is inside
  • Turn your phone ringer down so it cannot be heard outside
  • Don’t include your first name on the mail box or in the phone book
  • Install a peep hole on entry doors to view visitors prior to opening
  • Confirm the name of visitors before opening the door
  • Unfamiliar visitors asking to use the phone should wait outside. Offer to make the call for them – don’t let them use the phone
  • Ask service reps or sales people for ID when they come to your home, or call the company to confirm they were assigned to your home
  • Don’t supply a key to service people
  • Get to know your neighbors. Learn which ones you can trust and depend on in an emergency
  • Avoid hiding keys outside the house. Leave a key with a trusted neighbor or provide your kids with a key they can wear around their neck to prevent loss
  • Mount motion-detector lights around the property. Place them high enough so it is difficult to disable them
  • Install security cameras in your yard and around the home for monitoring
  • Report suspicious behavior or vehicles to the police
  • Create an inventory of valuable items in your home and keep it in a secure location, like a safe deposit box
  • Survey your home and look for vulnerable spots
  • Never leave notes on the door for family or service reps

Speak to your kids about these safety measures and ensure they practice them as well. Developing a home safety plan will keep everyone safe and avoid potential dangers.

Alarm System
One of the most effective ways to protect your home from burglary is to install an alarm system. According to the FBI, homes that install a monitored alarm system are 15 times less likely to be targets for a burglary. There are several options to choose from depending on the amount of protection desired and how much you want to spend.

Indoor and Outdoor: Indoor alarm systems are installed at the windows and doors. Many indoor systems also include motion sensors strategically placed around the house to monitor movement within a room. Once the alarm is set, any window or door that is opened, or if a motion is detected, a siren will sound indicating a possible intruder. A special code will need to be entered into a central control panel to disarm the alarm (this is also the same code used to set the alarm system).

Outdoor alarm systems monitor the property around your home. Many outdoor systems include motion detected flood lights that turn on when something walks within its path. Today’s systems are more advanced and designed to sense the difference between an animal and a human. This advancement cuts down on the number of false alarms from cats and dogs roaming the yard.

Wired System: A wired system requires electrical wiring to run from a central control panel to each window, door, motion sensor, keypad and siren. Ideally, the wiring should be hidden from view so it is best to install a wired system during the construction of a home. Greater technical expertise and maintenance is required to install a wired system so for the average do-it-yourselfer it is better to leave this to the experts. If the system is added to an existing home, professional installers can conceal the wiring.

Wireless System: A wireless system utilizes radio frequencies requiring less installation. If you want a do-it-yourself home security solution, a wireless systems is ideal. The technology is often cutting edge but, it can be a blessing and a curse. The technology makes the system more advanced, but at the same time more sensitive. A greater chance of false alarms can occur from passing police cars or pets. Make sure to review the different options and upgrades so you can choose the system that is right for you.

Choosing a Professional Security Company: If opting to leave security in the hands of professionals, request bids from several different security companies. Pricing, equipment, features, service and maintenance packages vary greatly between companies. A professional security company will install all the equipment in the interior and exterior of the home and provide continuous monitoring via computer software and human operators. When an alarm is triggered, the computer software identifies the alarm and notifies an operator. The operator then calls the home to verify the breach and contact local authorities, if necessary.

When choosing a company, make sure their monitoring services are local and they don’t outsource the service. This is a critical element in protecting the home so make sure you are comfortable with how it is handled.

Many homeowners opt for the bigger brand name companies like Brinks and ADT. However there are a number of local companies that offer competitive services which should be considered. Obtain bids from both national and local companies to compare pricing, services and monitoring systems to ensure you are receiving optimal service at a quality price. Get referrals from neighbors, insurance agents and friends to help create the list. A list of companies in your area can also be found by contacting the National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association or searching the Burglar Alarm Systems & Detection Devices or Security Serv & Systems headings at MyYP.com.

As part of the evaluation, ask a variety of questions to determine the reliability and professionalism of each company. Ask each company the same questions and evaluate the answers to select the best option for your home.

  • How long has the company been in business?
    • A minimum five year history is recommended in order to be considered.
  • Is the company properly licensed?
    • At minimum, they should have a low-voltage electrical license. Depending on the state, they could also be required to hold an alarm-contractor license as well. Check with your state’s licensing agency to determine the requirements and verify the company is in good standing.
  • Can you see their license number to verify their information?
    • A reputable company should have no problem providing their license numbers and should expect the consumer to verify their standing.
  • Is the company bonded and insured?
    • They should be willing to take responsibility for any damage during installation and pay to have it repaired.
  • Do they perform background checks before hiring employees?
    • Reputable companies invest the extra time and expense.
  • Does the company sell or lease the hardware?
    • Owning the equipment costs more upfront but will save money in the long run. Leasing often requires a longer contract commitment and equipment to be removed if you opt to change companies. Expect a rental fee to be included in the price each month as you are borrowing their equipment. Carefully review each option and the pros and cons of each before deciding.
  • How does the company handle their monitoring services?
    • Determine whether they own the service or outsource it to another company. Make sure the service is local and review their response procedures.
  • What is the length of the warranty and what will it cover?
  • What is their pricing policy, is it fixed?
    • Some companies increase monthly fees over time. Review the contract carefully and discuss their payment history to verify the payment structure.
  • What are the annual inspection costs and equipment upgrade policies?
    • Avoid hidden or unexpected fees by determining policies upfront.

Extensive Protection: In addition to home security, there are many systems that also provide protection from fire and personal emergencies. Heat and smoke sensor guards are installed to alert monitoring systems in case of a fire. Sirens will alert your family and operators will notify emergency services immediately. In the case of personal emergencies, panic buttons can be triggered to immediately request emergency services. These additional services provide further value and peace of mind to ensure your family is protected.

Video Surveillance: To maximize the effectiveness of the alarm system, consider adding video surveillance. Several camera transmitters are located around the property and entry locations. The camera feed is monitored through one central receiver which is connected to either your TV or computer. This provides full view of the property at any time, letting you know who is outside before opening any doors.

Specific home surveillance kits can be purchased and installed yourself, or it can be a feature added to your existing security company’s package. The cost for this type of system is relatively inexpensive depending on the depth and features, but the peace of mind it provides may be well worth the expense.

Cost: The cost of a home security system varies greatly depending on the type of system you install. An off the shelf, self installation system can range from $200-$500. Costs will increase depending on the number of surveillance cameras and sensor detectors. There is also a cost difference between hard wire and wireless systems.

Monitored systems typically cost $1,000 to install and require a monthly fee ranging from $30-$50. A contract is also required locking you into the service for an average of 2-3 years.

Contact your insurance company prior to selecting a home security option. Insurance companies sometimes offer discounts based on the level of security. Verify beforehand what systems and specifications they require to obtain a price break. This may help in selecting the final systems.

Securing Doors and Windows
It may sound obvious but the best way to prevent a burglar from getting into your home is to keep the doors and windows locked. In 2008, 32.2% of all burglaries were no-force entries, meaning a window or door was left open granting easy access.

Start protecting your home by conducting an inspection of your doors and windows. Evaluate the locking devices and think like a burglar to determine how you might get in the house with this type of system. If locking devices are inadequate, purchase alternative locks, or include additional locking devices. This is an inexpensive way to ensure your home and family are protected.

As you survey doors and windows, consider the following and begin to create a list of the changes that need to be made.

    Doors:
  • Include a deadbolt lock on all exterior doors
  • Deadbolt locks should have a one-inch throw or longer and have an ANSI grade 1 rating
  • Measure the space between the door and the frame and ensure a pry bar cannot be inserted to jimmy the lock
  • Ensure the metal strike plate which holds the bolt in place is a high quality metal, reducing the ability to kick in the door. The plate should include four screws with each screw being 3 inches long
  • Eliminate excess space by adding a panel of plywood or sheet metal
  • Purchase locks that have an anti-saw pin making it difficult for a burglar to saw through the bolt with a hacksaw
  • Consider locks with an anti-drill feature that destroys drill bits when attempting to drill through the lock


  • Inspect glass panels in doors to ensure they are fortified – consider impact resistant glass
  • Install a double-cylinder deadbolt if breaking door glass grants easy access to the lock
  • Hide the required deadbolt key nearby and make sure all family members know where to find it in case of a fire
  • Inspect door frames for dry rot. Dry rot makes it easier for burglars to remove the frame entirely
  • Replace rotted frames with solid wood or metal
  • Upgrade weaker exterior doors to solid metal or solid wood for greater protection
  • Ensure door frames are also made of solid wood or metal – a strong door alone is not sufficient protection
  • Include peepholes for easy viewing
  • Make sure all door hinges are located inside the house. Burglars can easily removed the door pins and remove the door to gain access
  • Secure sliding glass doors with a metal bar or wood rod in the track
  • Treat the door between the attached garage and house like an exterior door, securing it the same as the front or back door

  • Windows:
  • Inspect locking devices on windows
  • Replace broken locks and install key locking devices
  • Inspect glass panes and replace any that are broken or cracked
  • Ensure all basement or downstairs windows have key-operated windows
  • Consider impact resistant windows to eliminate easy entry by breaking the window
  • Check to ensure windows are securely constructed and upgrade any weathered or decaying tracks or casings
  • Contemplate adding bars or wires to windows that are extremely vulnerable or provide easy access
  • Examine smaller bathroom windows to ensure they are properly locked and secured. Burglars often fit through smaller windows so don’t overlook any

Garage Security
Like doors and windows, an open or unlocked garage becomes easy access for burglars. Consider the following tips for protecting your garage and keeping it secure.

  • Keep the door closed and locked, even when someone is home. An open garage provides easy access to valuable tools and items for a quick grab-and-run burglar. It also invites burglars to case the content for a later return
  • Lock any side entry doors and the door leading into the house
  • Frost or cover garage windows to eliminate the ability to see what is inside the garage
  • Install a peephole in the door between the garage and the home to investigate suspicious sounds without opening the door
  • Install automatic garage openers or bolt locks at the end of each door
  • Conceal garage door openers. Lock the remote in a console or glove compartment. Carry it with you or take it into the house, don’t leave it sitting in the car exposed
  • Upgrade the garage door opener every 8-10 years. Technology advancements make current garage door openers more secure. Older models are more susceptible to having the code cracked

Neighborhood Watch
Getting to know your neighbors will increase your social life, and your home security. Reaching out to know those around you can significantly reduce the amount of crime within a neighborhood. Follow these basic guidelines and begin today to create a safer neighborhood.

  • Invite neighbors over for a barbeque to get to know them
  • Discuss organizing and participating in a Neighborhood Watch
  • Invite the local police department to a future meeting to help educate the neighborhood and develop a program with proven techniques
  • Take time to watch over the neighborhood and keep your eyes open for suspicious behavior
  • Report unusual behavior to the local police department
  • Hold regular meetings to stay organized and address current concerns
  • Develop a schedule for patrolling the neighborhood and looking for potential problems

Protection While Away From Home
Burglars look for a home that is unoccupied and will watch the home for several days prior to breaking in. The longer it appears unoccupied the more susceptible it becomes. Consider these measures to keep your home protected even when you are away.

  • Stop the mail and newspaper services. Also consider any other weekly or monthly deliveries so packages don’t sit on the doorstep for several days
  • Place lights on random timers to give the appearance someone is home. These timers are inexpensive and can be found at any home improvement or hardware store. Make sure the device has a battery back-up, in case the power goes out
  • Set timers on outside lights. Leaving a porch light on 24 hours at a time, or three days straight, is a clear trigger that no one is home
  • Add timers to the television or radio
  • Turn down the telephone ringer and answering machine so those outside cannot hear the repeated rings. (Also, avoid stating in the recorded message that you will be out of town)
  • Have calls forwarded to your cell phone
  • Schedule someone to cut the grass or remove the snow while you are away
  • Consider hiring a house sitter
  • Speak with a neighbor about bringing in your trash cans so they do not remain out well after the scheduled pick-up day
  • Tell a trusted neighbor you will be out of town. They can watch over the home or bring in the mail and newspaper to help things look normal
  • Place valuables in a safe deposit box or wall safe to provide added protection

Home Safety
Fire Alarm Systems; Fire Protection Consultants; Lead Testing & Consulting; Lead Removal & Abatement; Asbestos Abatement & Removal Service

A variety of dangers threaten home safety everyday. Some of the leading threats are fires, carbon monoxide poisoning, poisonous household materials and drowning. Accidents involving these threats take the lives of thousands of individuals every year and could be avoided by applying simple safeguarding procedures.

Fire Safety
The U.S. Fire Administration reports that 4,000 people die each year from a home fire. Accidental fires can be the result of careless smoking, children playing with fire or overloaded or faulty electrical wiring. Regardless of the cause, many of these deaths can be avoided by following some rules of fire safety. Following these measures can help minimize the risk of fire in your home.

  • Install smoke detectors in all main rooms and hallways of the house
  • Keep a fire extinguisher in key areas such as the kitchen, garage, workroom, bedroom, etc
  • Develop a fire escape plan for your family and practice it so everyone knows what to do
  • Ensure every room has at least two escape routes
  • Specify a designated area for everyone to meet once they get out of the house
  • Store or install second story ladders that drop from the windows
  • Avoid overloading electrical circuits with excessive appliances
  • Unplug small appliances when not in use
  • Electrical outlets or switches that are hot to the touch indicate a wiring hazard. Remove all cords, turn off switches and call an electrician to assess the problem
  • Avoid running extension cords under carpet and rugs. The cords will wear easily and could short, causing a fire
  • Use tape to secure cords to walls and floors instead of staples
  • Quickly replace frayed electrical cords
  • Remain within bulb wattage guidelines to avoid overheating
  • Avoid tucking in an electric blanket, it can easily overheat
  • Turn off heating pads before going to sleep
  • Assign a specific storage closet or cabinet for all combustible materials, and keep it locked
  • Never store anything combustible near a fireplace or furnace
  • Position space heaters away from flammable objects and them turn off before going to sleep
  • Ensure wood burning fires are fully extinguished before leaving the house or retiring to bed

  • Kitchen Safety
  • Remove any paper near gas ranges or cooktops
  • While cooking, ensure pot handles are turned toward the range to prevent accidental tipping or spilling
  • Ensure air from windows or fans cannot extinguish gas range flame without detection
  • Never use water on a grease fire
  • Keep pan lids or baking soda close to smother a fire as quickly as possible

Smoke Detectors
Every primary living area in your home should contain a smoke detector. They won’t prevent a fire but they are inexpensive and easy to install and could save your life. They can be battery operated or hard-wired within the electrical system. The hard-wired smoke detector will include a battery reserve in case of loss of power. With either detector, check the batteries at least twice a year. Set a schedule to check detector batteries along with daylight savings to help you remember. Detectors with sync capabilities are also available. When one alarm goes off, it triggers all other alarms for greater warning.

Reacting to a Fire
If a fire occurs, make sure your and your family safely get out of the house and then call the fire department. Do not go back into the house for any reason or for any personal belongings.

If the fire is smaller, try smothering it with a coat or heavy blanket. Locate the nearest fire extinguisher or use cool water if available. Do not fight a fire longer than 30 seconds. If it cannot be contained in that time, exit the house immediately. Small fires can spread very rapidly.

Carbon Monoxide
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a gas that is produced by the incomplete burning of fuel including gasoline, natural gas, propane, wood, coal, charcoal, oil or kerosene. It is extremely dangerous because it is a colorless, tasteless, odorless gas which can be deadly in high doses. Because it is hard to detect, most people don’t realize they are being exposed until it is too late.

What Is Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?: When breathing in CO, it becomes absorbed into the bloodstream and replaces oxygen within the red blood cells. In large doses, CO completely replaces oxygen in the blood resulting in tissue damage and ultimately death.

What Are the Symptoms: In low to moderate doses, the symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to the flu: headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, chest pain and mental confusion. Because it is often mistaken as the flu, it is difficult to detect and is frequently mistreated. At high levels, it can cause unconsciousness and ultimately death. Many times high level exposures skip moderate symptoms and people lose consciousness before feeling ill. This is especially true if exposure occurs during sleep.

How Can It be Prevented: There are several things you can do to prevent CO poisoning and protect your home and family.

  • Make sure heating systems, water heaters, and any gas, oil or coal burning appliances are serviced yearly by a qualified technician
  • Verify through qualified inspection that all stoves, heaters or gas appliances have proper ventilation and are free of leakage
  • Ensure the furnace has adequate intake of outside air
  • Have chimney flues checked once a year for blockage or corrosion and have it cleaned by a qualified technician
  • Never use gas stoves or ovens to heat the home
  • Never use a charcoal or barbeque grill inside the home, garage, tent or vehicle
  • Never burn charcoal indoors or in enclosed spaces
  • Never operate a generator, or other gas engine powered tools, within enclosed spaces
  • Use proper fuel in appropriate heating systems
  • Never leave a car or gas powered tool running for an extended period of time in an attached garage or in an enclosed space
  • Never use fuel-burning camping equipment indoors
  • Never burn anything in a fuel-burning appliance unless it is properly ventilated
  • During winter months, ensure no outside vent is blocked by snow or other debris

Purchase a CO Detector: One of the safest and inexpensive ways to protect your family from CO poisoning is to install CO detectors. Like smoke detectors, CO detectors sound an alarm when the amount of CO reaches a critical level. Detectors can be purchased at home improvement or hardware stores and can be hard-wired, battery-operated or plugged into the wall. For hard-wired and plug-in detectors, make sure a battery back-up is available in case the power goes out. CO detectors should be installed in hallways outside bedrooms and on every level of the house. Make sure they are free from furniture blockage and a fair distance from heating vents. Also avoid placing them near the kitchen or close to fuel-burning appliances. Be sure to replace any batteries twice a year, again like smoke detectors at daylight savings and daylight standard time changes.

Reacting to the Alarm: When the CO alarm sounds, immediately go outside to find fresh air. Never stop to try and find the source of the CO. Once outside, call 911. Make sure your entire family is out of the house and wait for emergency services. Follow a similar exit plan as a fire to ensure everyone gets out and is safe. Do not re-enter the house for anyone or anything. Hundreds of people die every year due to CO poisoning. Following proper guidelines and ensuring your fuel-burning appliances are safe and in working order will help protect your family from this dangerous threat.

Poisons
There are a variety of toxins and poisons within your home that could be potential threats. Some toxins may be contained within building materials currently in the home and poisons can be found in everyday cleaning supplies. Removing these from your home or keeping them out of harms way, protects your family and increases your quality of life.

Toxins: Depending on when your home was built, some building materials may contain harmful toxins. Take some time to survey the home and look for these poisonous substances.

Lead: In older homes, lead can be found in paint, pipes or even dirt around the yard. If you’ve held on to antique ceramics or dishes, these could contain lead as well. Dust from lead or lead seeping into the water is absorbed into the body which can make you sick. Children are at higher risk as they touch their mouth more often, have a smaller body mass and are growing at a fast rate. Symptoms of lead poisoning include: headaches, fatigue, mental confusion and behavior issues. Depending on the amount of exposure, you could experience damage to vital organs and the nervous system. It can also cause death. If you suspect your home could contain lead, call the National Lead Information Center at 1-800-424-LEAD. To keep your family safe, all lead should be completely removed from the home.

Asbestos: This mineral fiber was commonly used in the insulation of homes, schools and commercial buildings prior to 1970. By the end of the 90’s, asbestos use was completely banned. As long as it is entirely contained, asbestos poses no threat. As it ages however, the fibers form into a fine dust which can be harmful causing respiratory problems and, potentially, cancer. Children are the most at risk due to their smaller size. If your home is older and you want to ensure no asbestos is present, contact your local environmental control agency for an inspection. If it is found, it must be removed by a professional, don’t try to do it yourself. Local removal companies are found by visiting the Asbestos Abatement & Removal Service heading at MyYP.com.

Poisons: Hidden dangers are found around the home in the form of household cleaners, prescription medicine, insecticides, glues, paint thinners, etc. Any of these substances can be harmful if accidentally swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Babies and toddlers are extremely susceptible as they often get into cupboards and drawers, placing whatever they find into their mouth. Therefore, it is extremely important to keep all harmful poisons and medicines – even vitamins, up and out of the reach of children. Specific toxins and poisons should be locked in cabinets so they are not found accidentally. If someone in your home is accidentally exposed to a poisonous substance, call the National Poison Control Hotline at 1-800-222-1222. Not all toxins should be removed via vomiting so make sure to consult Poison Control prior to any treatment.

Drowning: According to the CDC, just over 3,500 deaths occur each year due to unintentional drowning. This averages to 10 deaths per day. One out of every four fatal drowning victims is a child 14 years or younger and unintentional drowning is the second leading cause of death for children ages 1-14.

A child can drown in only a few minutes but many of them can be saved by implementing some simple home water hazard guidelines:

  • Enclose your pool or spa with a fence that is locked and cannot be climbed over or crawled under
  • Remove all inflatable floats, toys and balls from the pool after swimming. These invite children back to the pool area and they could fall in trying to retrieve them
  • Install a pool cover and pool alarm
  • Teach your children to swim
  • Ensure an adult or lifeguard is always present when children are in a bath or pool
  • Adults should be undistracted (avoid gardening, mowing the lawn, playing games, talking on the phone) while watching children
  • Never let anyone swim alone – always have a water buddy
  • Keep a phone near the pool area while swimming
  • Never rely solely on floatable devices in place of a life jacket to protect your child. They could slip out of them, or the device could deflate
  • Establish pool rules against running or pushing near the pool
  • Rules against diving should also be established depending on the depth of the pool
  • Never allow anyone who is drunk to swim in the pool
  • Adults should refrain from drinking when children are swimming
  • Never leave a child unattended in the pool, spa, bathtub, or near a sizable amount of water
  • Learn CPR. Many community centers or hospitals provide CPR adult programs

Insurance
Insurance; Homeowner's Insurance

Anticipate as a home owner, you are going to need insurance. Most mortgage companies require the homeowner to have insurance in order to grant a loan. The decision to purchase homeowner’s insurance may be inevitable, but the company you choose for coverage, the amount of coverage you purchase and what is covered is very much up to you. Take the time to research these decisions and don’t settle for the first bid or the lowest price. Homeowner’s insurance is protection for your home in case of damage, because you’ll want to make sure it can be returned to normal.

Finding an Insurance Agent
As with most purchases, it pays to shop around for the best coverage, price and service. Each company will offer different coverage packages at different pricing. Compare each policy side by side to determine the one that best fits your needs. It may not always be the lowest option but it should represent the best value.

Get Referrals: Ask friends and family who their insurance agent is and if they are happy with their service. Your real estate agent should also know a few good insurance agencies to recommend. State insurance websites are also a good reference and can provide information about an insurance company’s complaint history and financial strength. Analyst companies like J.D. Power and A.M. Best Company also provide unbiased industry information including customer satisfaction rankings. For a complete list of local insurance agencies, visit the Insurance heading at MyYP.com.

Discuss Discounts: Request information about discounts offered based on safety upgrades to the home. This includes security systems, fire resistant materials, etc. Some insurance companies offer loyalty discounts to current automobile insurance customers. So if you are happy with your auto or life insurance company, request a quote for homeowner’s insurance as well.

Ask Questions: Sit down with potential agents and ask a variety of questions. You will get a greater understanding of both their policy offerings as well as their personality. While you may not work with them often, insurance agents protect one of your most valuable possessions. If a claim needs to be made, you’ll want to know you can trust the agent and feel comfortable working with them. A few key questions to ask them are:

  • How long have they been in business?
    • Make sure the agent and the company have been in business for at least 5 years.
  • Are they currently licensed?
    • Ask to see their license and discuss the qualification for continual education and renewal.
  • How long have they lived in the area?
    • Choose an agent that is familiar with the area you live in.
  • What is the standard policy for handling a claim?
  • What support do they specifically provide?

Dependable customer service should be an absolute requirement. Make sure they are an agent and company you can rely on.

Amount and Choice of Coverage
Various factors influence the amount of coverage that is right for your home. These factors include the total square footage and the age of heating and air conditioning units, electrical, plumbing and general appliances. The state and materials used for flooring, cabinets and countertops are also factors. Homeowner’s insurance covers the cost of replacing the entire home from the foundation including the possessions-not the current market value of the home. Therefore, it is important to be truthful and upfront with the insurance agent to ensure you are fully protected. While insurance premiums will be higher in an older home, stretching the truth about the age of your electrical system could hurt you in the long run. For example, if your insurance company is required to replace your system, the payout will be based on a newer system which costs less to replace than an older one.

Remodeling Coverage: When considering any remodeling project, protect the investment upfront by speaking with your insurance agent. Depending on the depth of the remodel, you may want to consider increasing coverage before work begins. This will protect you from any accidents or structural problems during the project. Most homeowner’s policies cover liability for guests, but during the remodel process, increase it for the liability of contractors and sub-contractors. Adding additional coverage before work begins also updates the replacement value based on the upgrades to the home. At minimum, insurance agents should be notified of remodeling upgrades once they are completed. While this will increase your premium, it will also ensure the full replacement value is recognized should a major claim be required.

High-Value Item Coverage: A standard homeowner’s policy covers a percentage of your possessions but if you have something of significant value, you’ll want to include it specifically. This could include high-end computer equipment, electronics, coin collections and jewelry. Adding this coverage will ensure the item is replaced at its full value. Talk to your insurance agent about including these items either under a separate policy or as a “floater” within the existing policy.

High-Risk Coverage: If you live in a high-risk zone that is prone to earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes or flooding, expect the pricing to reflect these risks. Insurance companies charge premiums for homes built in high-risk areas. If this is something you want to avoid, carefully consider the area you choose to live. Alternatively if you love the area and don’t want to leave, carefully review the insurance policy to fully understand what will and won’t be covered to ensure you are protected.

Liability: Most policies include some coverage for liability. Liability protects the home owner in the event someone is hurt on their property and the injured party decides to sue. Take the time to evaluate the coverage based on future remodeling plans as well as possible safety hazards. For additional protection, you may want to increase liability coverage if the home requires extensive renovation or remodeling. The potential hazards increase for someone getting hurt on the job and you’ll want to ensure you have adequate coverage. If the home has a swimming pool or spa, this creates a potential hazard as well. Increased liability will provide stronger protection in the event someone gets hurts. Again, premiums will increase but the extra you pay per month could save tens of thousands of dollars in the future.

Amount of Deductible: Monthly premiums significantly shift based on the amount of the deductible associated with your plan. The deductible amount is the out of pocket cost the homeowner pays when a claim is made. Higher deductibles result in a lower monthly premium, while lower deductibles have a higher monthly premium. Many insurance agencies offer a variety of deductible scenarios depending on your needs. Work with your agent to negotiate the level that is comfortable for you and fits within your budget.

 
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