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Top 10 Travel Insurance FAQs

May 3, 2013 1:06 am

With summer around the bend, many travelers will be heading out on much-needed vacations and should hopefully be seeking out travel insurance. Here is a list of the questions most commonly asked by travelers on the lookout.

1. Doesn’t my credit card have travel insurance?
No, not in the way most travelers want it to. Credit cards that have “travel insurance” provide little coverage, but nothing in comparison to a separate policy from a travel insurance company. Some cards provide cancellation coverage, but with an annual limit ($1,500-$2,500 per 12 month period), and the list of covered reasons is limited. Interruption coverage is limited as well, as is travel delay coverage. Most importantly though, is that almost no credit cards provide medical expense or evacuation coverage.

2. Won’t my regular health insurance cover me abroad?
Not completely. Most regular health insurance plans provide partial or no coverage while you are traveling in another country. For Medicare, there is never coverage abroad. Countries with “universal health care” might assist with minor needs, but they are under no obligation to do so. In the event of major or ongoing medical expenses, they would cease to help, and they would never pay to evacuate you or help you return home.

3. Will my cruise line refund me?
A little. It depends on when you cancel, but generally you won’t get much back. Most cruise companies have a declining refund schedule where they refund less and less the closer to the departure date, until they refund nothing at all. Generally within two weeks there is zero refund, and even canceling a month before will usually only get you a 25 percent refund.

4. Are hurricanes covered?
Yes, many plans cover hurricanes and weather under trip cancellation coverage. To be covered you need to 1) make sure it is listed as a covered reason, 2) buy before the storm is named, 3) insure for the full trip cost, and 4) some plans require that you buy soon after your trip payment to avoid the waiting period.

5. Are pre-existing conditions covered?
Yes, many plans offer a waiver that removes the pre-existing condition exclusion. To be covered you need to 1) buy your plan soon after your first trip payment, 2) insure for the full trip cost, 3) be medically cleared for travel at the time of purchase.

6. What does travel insurance cost?
Insurance costs 4-8 percent of the trip cost (pre-paid, non-refundable expenses). Basic plans can be very budget-minded at less than 4 percent, and premium vacation plans can be over 12 percent. Travel medical insurance is sold on a trip=length basis, and can be as little as dollars per day.

7. When should I purchase my plan?
Within days of making your initial trip deposit. There are many benefits to purchasing the plan sooner, including maximizing the period of cancellation coverage, and being eligible for pre-existing condition coverage and hurricane coverage.

8. How do I know I can trust the company?
The companies featured by are companies that have years of experience with solid AM Best ratings of financial stability, and they comply with a Zero Complaint Policy.

9. What is the refund policy?
A 100 percent refund of premium within the Free Look Period is guaranteed by all companies. This allows travelers to review their policy and return it for any reason within the time period (less a small administration fee $5-$8).

10. How do I buy travel insurance?
Travel insurance can be quoted and purchased instantly online using a credit card. Since travel insurance is a temporary insurance product, there is generally no underwriting period or medical examination required. You can get a quote online, buy with a credit card, print your email confirmation, and you’re all done.


Published with permission from RISMedia.


More People Will Be Building with Recycled Building Materials This Spring

May 2, 2013 1:06 am

Every spring, more and more people start home improvement projects. Good news for the earth: This spring, many of those people will be building with recycled building materials.

In a recent poll by, 91 percent of respondents said that they had either used recycled building materials this year, or were planning to. You can see the growth in use of recycled building materials in these numbers:

• Consumption of composite lumber made from recycled plastics increased by 58 percent in recent years, according to Recycling Today.
• The primary market for recycled plastics is the composite lumber industry, according to The American Chemistry Council.
• According to the American Iron and Steel Institute, 88 percent of today's structural steel is made from recycled materials.
• The Harvard Graduate School of Design reports a sharp increase in the use of sustainable roofing materials.

While recycled lumber and composite decking lead the pack in popularity, other recycled building materials are seeing an increase in consumer demand. For instance, member Brooks Custom, a fabricator of unique upscale counter tops, has expanded his line of counter tops to include recycled woods, metals, and concretes in order to meet customer demand for these materials.

"At Brooks we are experiencing an increased demand for Antique Chestnut and Southern Yellow Heart Pine from barn beams. These woods are very attractive and include lots of distress marks and imperfections. Our stainless steel countertops look crisp and new but steel is one of the most recycled metals in the world. Over 80 percent of waste steel is recycled and turned into new products, including countertops. Glass is another highly-recyclable material that has gained popularity, and we've seen an uptick in glass specialty tops," said Todd Costello.

"Many of the most popular projects on are projects that incorporate recycled building materials. People seem to get extra enjoyment out of remodeling and building with these materials. I expect to see even more members posting projects that involve recycled building materials as the spring remodeling season heats up," said Miriam Illions, Director of Community Development at

Source: Hometalk, LLC

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Prevent House Fires and Boost Home Safety with a Few Key Tips

May 2, 2013 1:06 am

Every year home electrical problems cause more than 28,000 house fires and massive property damage. Electrical wiring is the root cause of many of these fires, of which countless could have been prevented. To ensure electrical safety in your home, Constellation, an independent energy provider, is encouraging everyone to review key electrical safety tips.

Faulty or fixed wiring or improper use of electrical cords and other electrical items cause most home fires. Heed the following tips to maximize your home's safety:

• Pay Attention: Flickering lights, buzzing noises, and faceplates that are warm to the touch are all signs that a circuit may be overloaded or wiring may be wearing thin. Each one of those signs is cause for immediate attention from a licensed professional electrician.

• Listen to Your Breaker: If you are continually tripping a switch and having to reset your breaker box, your house is trying to tell you something. There may be a fixture with faulty wiring or too high an electrical load on the breaker. Again, seek professional help.

• Review and Replace: Frayed electrical cords, wobbly ceiling fans, and loose faceplates are more than mere annoyances. You should routinely inspect your home and replace or repair items in need of attention.

• Safety First: Even the best preparation and newest equipment is not a guaranteed protection against fire. Working smoke detectors on all levels of your home is an absolute must. Make sure you have a working fire extinguisher and you know the proper way to use it.

For more information and safety tips, visit and

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Spring Pest Season Is Upon Us

May 2, 2013 1:06 am

Spring has sprung! As we begin cleaning, it’s important to keep a look out for pets, as ants, roaches, spiders and other pests that overwinter will likely start to become more active in the next few weeks.

"Now that spring has officially begun, and once temperatures are consistently above 70 degrees, pests will begin making their way out in full force," says Matt Peterson, Orkin's Southeast Division technical services manager. "Insects stay in a hibernation-like state during the winter since cold temperatures slow down their metabolism and reproduction cycles, but as the weather begins to warm, their systems start moving again."

Many homeowners consider ants to be one of the most serious pests. There are more than 10,000 species worldwide, and about 50 of those in the United States. Ants can infest homes by coming in through the tiniest of cracks, and controlling them is difficult because they leave an invisible pheromone trail for others to follow once they find a food source. There are three main categories of ants: nuisance, health (such as fire ants) and structural (such as carpenter ants).

"Another common sign in the spring is a group of ants with wings which can be confused with termite swarms," said Peterson. "It's a common misconception because of their similar appearance. Correctly identifying an ant infestation determines the best treatment method."


In addition to entering a home through cracks and crevices, vents and pipes, other items like grocery bags, boxes and purses can transport cockroaches and their eggs. Because cockroaches are nocturnal, if you see one during the day, that means they were likely forced out by overcrowding—a possible sign of a severe infestation.

Cockroaches are filthy pests. They pick up germs on their legs and bodies and can spread disease, contaminate food and cause allergies and asthma. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), roaches can also carry organisms that cause diarrhea, dysentery, cholera, typhoid fever and viral diseases.

"Roaches burrow in mulch or bark for the winter," said Peterson. "But since the ground temperature has been getting warmer, you may start to see more and more of them as the temperatures begin to increase."

According to a recent Omnibus survey, the biggest concerns with spiders are that "they could bite, sting or attack me" (50 percent) and "they're creepy" (44 percent). However, there are only two species of spiders in the U.S. that are harmful to humans – the brown recluse and the black widow. Most other spiders are just nuisance pests and like to feed on other insects, so if you see spiders around the inside of your home, that could be a sign of a larger pest problem.

"Sanitation is really the most important factor when it comes to helping to prevent spiders," said Peterson. "Some spiders like moisture and others like dry, warm areas."

Peterson recommends the following tips to help prevent ants, roaches and spiders from being attracted to your home:

  • Remove all unnecessary food and water sources.
  • Seal cracks and crevices around doors and windows.
  • Clean up spilled food and drinks immediately.
  • Keep gutters clear, and direct water from downspouts away from your home.
  • Thin vegetation and do not pile mulch or allow soil to accumulate against your home's siding. This could provide access for ants and roaches to enter your home.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Buyers Eye Foreclosed Properties as They Look to Achieve Homeownership

May 1, 2013 5:32 pm

As the spring real estate market continues to heat up, house hunters are back in full force. For potential buyers who dream of purchasing a home but don’t have the money they need to buy in the neighborhood they desire, looking into a foreclosed home may be a smart option.

There are numerous factors to consider when buying a foreclosed home compared to a traditional home purchase. First off, the price you see is usually set at a fair and reasonable amount to encourage a sale, so coming in with a low-ball offer probably won’t work.

In addition, the negotiation period will also take a little more time. You’re not just submitting an offer and waiting to hear back from the seller with a counter-offer. When purchasing a foreclosure, your offer is submitted to the bank and possibly an investor, and the process takes some time.

It’s also important to keep in mind that a foreclosed property is sold “as is,” meaning that regardless of what pops up during the inspection, it’s not going to give you any bargaining power. Therefore, buyers need to factor in the cost of fixing any issues before presenting their best offer. Be sure to hire a first-rate inspector so you know everything before making a decision.

When looking into a foreclosed property as a potential purchase, there are many items that shouldn’t be overlooked. Not only do you want to ensure that the water runs properly in all the bathrooms, you also want to make sure all the appliances work and that both the heating and cooling systems are operable. In addition, be sure to check for broken windows and water seeping in through windows.

It’s also a good idea to talk with your real estate agent about what’s happening in the neighborhood. If a number of houses are being foreclosed upon, it might keep the value of your home low, even after you fix it up. Plus, working with a real estate agent who has experience in handling distressed properties can speed things up and make the process a bit smoother.

If you’re interested in a foreclosed property, you should act quickly. Remember that the homes that are in the best condition will be snapped up quickly, so be sure to have your financing in place and be ready to jump when a foreclosed home hits the market.

To learn more about purchasing a foreclosure, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Homeowners Insurance: What's Covered, What's Not?

May 1, 2013 5:32 pm

Homeowners insurance is a great way to protect your home and belongings, however, with many policies, some common occurrences might not be covered. While policies differ from state to state, it’s crucial that you understand what’s included in your policy before signing the dotted line.

Typically, a homeowners insurance policy will cover the actual dwelling and some of the other structures on the property, like a fence, garage and driveway. Personal property is usually covered as well. This includes the contents inside the home, although you may need to pay a bit more in premiums for high-value items like jewelry or antique furniture. When getting a policy, it’s important to be sure that these items are covered. The last thing you want is to find out you weren’t covered if your house is robbed or destroyed by fire.

Policies also normally include coverage for injuries incurred by those on your property where you are liable. For instance, if someone slips on your driveway or falls while making repairs to the roof, you’re covered. However, this coverage is usually limited to a certain dollar value, so you need to know how much coverage you have and exactly what’s included.

One area that often confuses people when it comes to homeowners insurance has to do with natural disasters. It’s important to remember that not everything is covered and you often have to buy separate flood, hurricane or earthquake insurance—especially if you live in an area that is highly susceptible to these disasters. You may be able to save on these premiums by better protecting yourself against damage by adding storm shutters, reinforcing your roof or buying stronger roofing materials.

If items are stolen from your vehicle while it sits on your property, this may or may not be covered by your insurance. Normally, this is covered by auto insurance, but there are some homeowner policies that will include these items, so it’s good to know if yours does.

Additionally, many first-time buyers think they need insurance to cover the entire cost of the house sale. However, since the land under your house isn’t at risk from theft, windstorm, fire or other perils covered in your homeowners policy, it’s not necessary to include these when deciding how much insurance you should buy. Before choosing a policy, talk with your agent and determine the best number so that you have enough coverage, but not too much that you’re paying premiums for what you don’t need.

To learn more about homeowners insurance, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Space Matters: Closets an Important Selling Point, No Matter the Market

May 1, 2013 5:32 pm

When it comes to preparing a home for sale, one of the last areas sellers often think about are the closets. However, closets are an important selling point for any home, as space is something that potential buyers can always use more of.

One of the easiest ways to make the closets in your home more appealing is by clearing out the clutter and making them seem larger than they really are. This applies to closets in your bedroom, bathroom, hallway and even the kitchen. If you really want your closets to stand out as a selling point, spend a day getting rid of everything you don’t need—you’ll be surprised how many things you come across that you haven’t used in years.

Once you’ve cleared out all your closets, it’s time to organize them. For closets with clothes, stagers recommend using wire hangers to keep everything organized. It’s also a good idea to group shirts and items by color, with darks on one side and lights on the other. This will make the closet “pop” and provide a more eye-catching impression.

Additionally, nothing should ever be on the floor of the closet. Use shoe racks to organize any footwear and small drawers and shelves to hold sweaters, socks and other items that you can’t hang. Simple and inexpensive shelving can do wonders and are easy to install. If your budget allows, utilize a professional closet organizer and have him or her do their magic. This will really make your closets stand out among prospective buyers.

When it comes to linen closets, make sure each shelf is neat with the newer towels and sheets in front. You also want to do away with any old bathroom fixtures, bath toys or hotel shampoos that may have found their way into the closet over the years. Again, space is the desired effect.

In the kitchen, discard food that’s been sitting around for ages, make sure baking items aren’t spilling out of their bags (use old bread bag containers if they are) and clean up your spices.

You should also think about what a closet says to a potential buyer. For instance, if a bedroom closet holds clothes for just one, it might suggest a recent divorce or death, and that could lead to a low-ball offer. On the other hand, if closets are jam-packed with stuff, it can be interpreted that there’s just not enough space in the house, sending potential buyers out the door.

The main key with closets is to allow buyers to see the true size and functionality of the space. You don’t need to have a walk-in closet to impress people. You just need to treat each closet as if it was another room in the house.

For more tips to prepare your home for sale, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Understanding Disclosure and Its Role in a Real Estate Deal

May 1, 2013 5:32 pm

Is there mold in your home? What about termites? Do you have an old heating tank buried in your yard? If you’re in the process of selling your home, it’s necessary to disclose these problems—in most cases—to a buyer before a sale can be completed.

While disclosure laws differ from state to state, in most cases, it’s against the law to fraudulently conceal any major problems in your home. This includes everything mentioned above to whether your basement floods during heavy rains or if part of your foundation is crumbling.

Property disclosure plays a very important role in a real estate deal. Today, it is almost standard for written disclosures to be included in the contract. And when you sign one, it must be truthful. If not, you’re looking at costs and possibly a lawsuit.

When it comes to property disclosure, you should always talk with your real estate agent and/or attorney about what’s required to disclose. You can also check with your town’s City Planning Department about local ordinances and disclosures that can come into play.

Generally, you’re only responsible for disclosing information that you personally know about, so it’s not necessary to hire an inspector to come look for problems regarding conditions that weren’t brought to your attention when you purchased the home.

However, some states do require more investigation on your part. In fact, there are laws on the book in certain states that require a homeowner to search for some of these major problems—especially mold and lead paint—whether you see problems or not.

In California, sellers are required to disclose any possible risk that could result from natural disasters, such as the home being in a flood plain, earthquake zone or its susceptibility to wildfires. A disclosure like this will enable potential buyers to understand the financial risk and danger they could face, plus warn about problems they may experience in buying insurance for the home.

If you’re buying a home, regardless of your state’s laws, you should demand a disclosure statement be part of the contract. This will protect the buyer in case something shows up after the sale.

Asking a seller to disclose material facts means you’re asking them to disclose anything they know about the house that might be problematic. While you can’t force someone to sign a disclosure (again, depending on the laws in the state), you always have the right to leave any deal, and you might end up forcing a buyer’s hand.

If a seller does refuse to sign a disclosure, and you still want the house, it should send up a red flag that something might be wrong. This should encourage you to invest a little more when it comes to an inspection and do your due diligence about the neighborhood. In the end, it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to making sure the home of your dreams doesn’t turn into a nightmare.

To learn more about disclosures, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Simple Tips for Hosting a Successful Garage Sale

May 1, 2013 5:32 pm

Whether you just purchased a home right up the road from your current residence or across numerous state lines, you undoubtedly have a lot of items that will be packed up and transported to your new location. However, if you’re looking to make your move a little easier—or your new home simply doesn’t have room for all your belongings—a garage sale is a great way to get rid of items that you’ll be leaving behind.

When it comes to hosting a successful garage sale, it’s crucial that you think beyond simply throwing stuff on tables in your yard. For a truly successful sale, you need to advertise, organize and create a shopping experience that will entice people to stop in and buy.

If you’re planning on having a garage sale, the first thing you should do is go through every room in your house and decide what items you won’t be taking with you. Any and everything not going should be sold at the sale, even if you only get small change for the item. Keep in mind that planning for and hosting a garage sale isn’t something that can be done in a day or even a weekend. Start getting things ready about a month before you plan to hold your sale.

As you find items, start grouping them into different sections. For instance, place all items for the kitchen together and then create separate piles of clothes, toys, books, etc. It’s crucial that everything stay organized so that you don’t end up with a mish-mash of things that will make people think you just threw everything together.

Once you’ve collected everything you plan to sell, it’s time to tackle the key to any garage sale: pricing. People love bargains, so make sure you take emotions out of your pricing decisions and make things very affordable. Use stickers for pricing so people aren’t constantly asking how much something is. It’s also a good idea to offer buy-one-get-one-free options or three-for-a-dollar type pricing to compel people to buy more. When people try to bargain for a lower price (and they will!), let the items go. Remember, this is more about disposing of your things than making a quick buck off of them.

Whether you live in an area that gets a lot of traffic or on a quiet street, make sure you take to social media to announce your sale. You may also want to think about taking out an ad on Craigslist or putting an ad in your local circular, school or church bulletin. Don’t forget to hang up plenty of signs around the area a few days before your sale so people can make plans to drop by. If you have big-ticket items like furniture, musical instruments, lawn equipment or something unique or antique looking, mention them in the ads and take photos, as this is a great way to really entice people to come.

For the sale itself, be kind, offer up water or lemonade and be ready to make some deals.

If there are any large items left over after the sale that you don’t plan on taking with you (be it a pool table, couch, piano, dining set, etc.), offer them up for free on Craigslist or Freecycle. Not only will this save you time and money, it will also save you the hassle of having to lug these items to the dump.

For more information about holding a successful garage sale, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


In this Edition: Property Disclosure

May 1, 2013 5:32 pm

Our lead story in this month’s Home Matters, brought to you through our company's membership in RISMedia’s Real Estate Information Network® (RREIN), examines how to set up and throw a successful garage sale. Other topics covered this month include why foreclosed properties may be a smart option for buyers looking to achieve homeownership and what you need to know about homeowners insurance before picking the policy that’s right for you. We hope you enjoy this month’s edition of Home Matters and as always, we welcome your feedback. Email us anytime!

Published with permission from RISMedia.