The time to purchase Flood Insurance is before the Spring rains hit

Most homeowners policies do not cover floods.  The most serious mistake people can make is to think it won't happen to them because they don't live in a flood plain.  Almost everyone lives in either a low, moderate or high-risk flood plain.  Heavy rain or snow melt can create a flood on any type of property.  Depending on federal disaster relief to cover damages from a flood is also unwise.  Federal disasters are declared in fewer than half the cases of flooding.  The Federal Government mostly provides loans that have to be repaid with interest, whereas flood insurance covers most of the damage for a fixed price.

Anyone can buy flood insurance, even if the property has been flooded before, provided you live in a community that participates in the NFIP (National Flood Insurance Program).  There's usually a 30-day waiting period before new and modified policies go into effect, which means you can't buy a policy and have it be in effect the next day.

Flood insurance will pay for flood repairs, removing mud and debris, and replacing personal belongings and business inventories.

Did you know?

  • Floods occur six times more frequently than fires.
  • Ninety percent of flood disasters do not receive federal disaster aid.
  • The average federal disaster payment is only $2,500 and the largest grant is just $12,500.
  • Between 25 and 30 percent of National Flood Insurance Program claims come from outside high-risk flood areas.

If you're interested in more information regarding flood insurance, please call our office.

What to do after a homeowners loss

(from theft, fire, wind damage, flood, etc)

1. Call our office (419-855-9089)  to report the loss and start the claim process.

2. Stay out of your home until it's safe to re-enter, then assess the damages.

  • Fire - don't enter your home until the fire department says its safe.
  • Theft - call the police to file a report.  Change all locks.  Call your credit card companies as soon as possible  to report any cards stolen.
  • Weather related - electric, gas and water utilities should be kept off until all have been inspected.
  • Flood - make sure your home is structurally sound before re-entering.

3. Take pictures of any damage.  Make a list of all damaged or stolen personal property. 

4. Take steps to prevent further damage to your property.  For example, cover a damaged roof or board up broken windows and doors.

5. Keep receipts of everything you purchase to replace lost, damaged or stolen items.

(This list is also permanently listed on our website's "Claims" page for future reference)

What to do after an auto accident

1) Turn on your vehicle's hazard lights.

2) Contact 911 for Emergency Medical Service and Police.  Be prepared to give your detailed location such as highway mile marker or nearest intersection. 

3) Do not apologize even if you think it was your fault.  The police will determine who or what caused the accident.

4) For each driver involved, collect the following:

  • name, address, phone number
  • drivers license number
  • insurance carrier, policy number, and name of insured if different than driver

 5) For each vehicle involved, collect the following:

  • license plate number
  • vehicle description (year, make, model, color), or take pictures

6) If police don't respond to the accident (such as on private property or no injuries) file a police report to protect yourself.

7) Call our office (419-855-9089) or your insurance carrier's claim number listed on our "Claims " tab to report the accident.

(This list is also permanently listed on our website's "Claims" page for future reference)

How to Save on a Family Vacation

The following is Part 5 of our 5 part series on finances, courtesy of Nationwide Insurance's blog

Looking for a perfect family getaway at a budget-friendly price? You do have options beyond the staycation or the grandparents’ house for a getaway. With a little creativity and planning, you can cut vacation costs without missing out on any of the fun. Here’s some ideas for planning a family vacation on a budget.

1. Signup for online fare alerts

Begin planning your vacation with a long view and you can really develop an eye for good deals. Sign up for fare alerts at websites like Kayak, TravelZoo or DealBase to get a feel for your price range.

2. Look for discounted vacation packages

Look at family vacation packages being offered on discount sites like Groupon and Living Social, which can result in real savings if you have some flexibility in your schedule. Here are some more places you can look for an affordable vacation package.

3. Take advantage of off-peak pricing

Ever been to a mountain ski resort in the summertime? Or to a beach resort very early or very late in the season? Or take a cruise after cruising gets some very bad PR? Some vacation destinations can be even more charming, more relaxing and definitely less expensive during times when fewer fellow tourists are around.

4. Book mid-week flights

If you have some flexibility in your plans, see what a change in date will do to the bottom line. Even changing the day of the week you fly can cut costs—fly mid-week instead of on Friday or Saturday for better rates.

5. Double-check online travel sites

When you do use travel websites like those mentioned above, check their sources. Aggregator sites are great at helping you find general prices for flights, hotels and rental cars. But before you book a family vacation with one of these sites, check first with the airline, hotel or car rental company directly to make sure you are getting the lowest rate.

6. Cut back on little extras

Often, just trimming some extra expenses will lighten your vacation budget. Stay at a hotel with a substantial free breakfast to eliminate the cost of one meal per day. Or save even more money on meals by scouting hotels or resorts where kids eat or stay free, or booking a room with a kitchen and cooking a few of your own meals.

Fliers can sign up for a frequent flier program to get waived baggage fees. Drivers can cut gas costs by using Gas Buddy, an app that finds the cheapest gas near you. Wherever you travel, remember to exploit any potential discounts—including senior, student, military and, of course, AAA.

If you’re traveling internationally, make sure you check passport requirements so you have enough time to apply or renew without having to pay a fee to expedite the process.

7. Think outside the traditional hotel room

Adventurous families can find plenty of comfortable, low-cost travel alternatives that make for a more interesting vacation. Large families might consider renting a vacation home, which can accommodate big groups at a much lower cost, especially for long stays.

Check out HomeAway.com for a list of nearly a half-million rental lodgings all over the world. If you live in an interesting spot, look into HomeExchange.com, where homeowners in 154 countries list homes available for short-term exchange if they are interested in yours. If you’d prefer a room but don’t need a lot of frills, there are some surprisingly nice hostels to be found if you know where to look. Start at Hostelz.com, where travelers review thousands of spots.

And really nothing says family vacation like a campsite. If you love the outdoors, you can find some amazing campsites (including spots with beaches/water activities, fishing, golf, horseback riding and more) on ReserveAmerica.com.

8. Avoid checked bag fees

Most airlines charge fees for checked bags, and a whole family’s worth of luggage can add up. Try to pack light and efficiently to avoid fees and reduce the risk of something being lost or stolen.

Unexpected incidents can turn your vacation upside down. Travel insurance from Nationwide can help protect you and your loved ones and keep your trip on the right track.

Month-By-Month Guide for Big Purchases

The following is Part 4 in our 5 part series on finances, courtesy of Nationwide Insurance's blog

Save big by learning the best times to buy.

The best bargain shoppers know that timing is everything in deciding what to buy when. Different products follow different cycles of pricing, depending on everything from holidays to weather to annual trade shows. Check out our month-by-month suggestions for the best deals and steals.

January

Fitness equipment: Maybe they want to help you stick to your New Year’s Resolution, or maybe they just know an easy sales opportunity when they see it. Either way, retailers tend to cut prices on fitness equipment at the start of each new year. Wearables, like step and fitness trackers, see price drops at this time of year as well.

Winter apparel: Everyone asks for winter clothes for Christmas, and department stores know it. After the holiday passes, they’re left with quite a bit of merchandise that they need to move in order to make room for spring fashions. This is your time to snag that heavy parka you’ve had your eye on, or maybe some outdoor snow gear—it’s still going to be cold for a while.

Linens, bedding, and towels: Some historians claim the “white sales” that January is known for were started by merchant John Wanamaker. He wanted to drive business during the winter months, so he slashed prices on bed linens, which at the time, were only available in white.

Modern retailers continue this tradition, but with a more colorful spin. Look around stores and online for a variety of linens, towels, and more this January.

February

Tax software: The closer it gets to tax day, the more likely you are to find deals on tax processing software.

Mattresses: For some reason, Presidents Day weekend seems to be prime time for mattress sales. Sleep is important, so take time to pick a really good mattress. If you wait until February to buy it, your splurge can actually earn you some savings!

March

Boats: After the close of boating trade show season, prices will take a nosedive. And while boat insurance prices don’t dip in March, if you buy a boat, it is also a good idea to shop for coverage.

Luggage: Holiday traveling is over, but summer vacations are still a distant dream. This means interest in travel related goods is low, and retailers are lowering their prices on luggage to drive product interest and ride out the sales lull.

Electronics: The Japanese fiscal year ends in March, which means Japanese-made goods like electronics are on their way out of stores to make room for new models. These discounts might even be better than February’s Super Bowl TV sales.

April

Thrift items: It’s spring cleaning season. Clear out your house, hold a yard sale, and use the extra cash to purchase some select secondhand items.

Houses: If you’ve already begun your home buying research, April is a good time to start looking for the perfect place. Prices aren’t quite at the rock-bottom lows they reach during winter but they’re usually well below the summer listing prices, that tend to peak right as the school year ends. There are also more houses on the market than there were in the winter, so you’ll have more options to choose from.

Vacations: It’s not traditionally a vacation month, so it’s a great time to book a vacation. The weather is pleasant in many locations, and prices haven’t hit the peak season highs that usually come May. Cruises are especially affordable this month. Don’t forget to do your research on where to find the best travel deals, as member discounts and loyalty programs can go a long way.

May

Memorial Day Sales: Clothing, party supplies, cookware, swimwear and more are all available at discounted prices as Memorial Day sales stretch throughout the entire month.

Refrigerators: New refrigerator models are released this month, so department stores offer last year’s stock at reduced prices.

June

Tools and hardware: It might be cliché, but dads seem to like tools, and retailers seem to like offering Father’s Day sales with deeply discounted power tools, hardware, and more.

Gym memberships: Many people prefer to exercise outdoors once it gets warm – so gyms try to lure you back inside with promotional rates.

Dishes and housewares: As wedding season peaks, the prices on wedding registry gifts (like dishes and kitchen appliances) tend to dip.

July

Summer clothes: Next month marks the start of back-to-school season, and stores need to make room for the accompanying fall fashions. That makes July a great time to pick up summer essentials and still get a few months use out of them.

Outdoor furniture: Take advantage of mid-season discounts to upgrade your patio.

August

Laptops and computers: Back-to-school specials mean great deals on computers – whether or not you’re actually going to school.

Office supplies: Back-to-school sales don’t have to just apply to students. Pens, paper, notebooks, organizers and more are on sale this month, to the benefit of professionals and academics alike.

September

Airfare: Off-season offers make air travel especially affordable this time of year.

Lawnmowers: The grass-cutting season may be ending, but now’s the time to buy a new lawnmower for next summer.

Bicycles: As new bike models come out at the beginning of fall, you can take advantage of sales on existing stock and score yourself a set of new wheels.

October

Cars: Car dealers need to clean out their lots to make way for new inventory this month, so it can be easier to negotiate a good price. Don’t assume you’ll be getting the best price however. Here are 5 things you should know before buying a car to help you get the best deal, regardless of when you purchase.

Gardening tools: True to the principle of supply and demand, garden tools become less vital as the temperature drops, so prices drop right along with it.

November

Appliances: If you can handle the Black Friday crowds, this is the best time to snatch up a deal on high-end appliances.

Toys: The holiday season is here, and Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales are a great time to get great deals on the latest and greatest toys.

Wedding dresses: Are you or someone you know getting married next year? Bridal shops are clearing their inventory to make space for next year’s gowns, so current stock will be discounted.

December

Gift cards: Prices on gift cards can fall to nearly 20% of their value this month, which means your money can stretch further.

Golf clubs: Few golfers are hitting the links this month, so sporting goods stores tend to price their clubs below retail value.

Champagne: New Year’s Eve toasting traditions mean Champagne distributors must compete for sales. Stock up now for a year of celebrations.

Part 5 "How to Save on a Family Vacation" coming next week

How to Effectively Negotiate Rent

The following is Part 3 of our 5 part series on home finances, courtesy of Nationwide Insurance's blog.

Whether you’re apartment hunting and the perfect place is slightly out of your price range, or your landlord is raising the rent on your current apartment, you have the option to try and negotiate your rent. It sounds intimidating, but with a little strategy, you just might win over the landlord. Here are some ways you can go about negotiating your rent price:

Ask the landlord if rent price is open to discussion

Politely ask if the landlord is willing to discuss rent prices and when a good time to talk would be. If you’re negotiating price for a new place, it’s important to know who you are talking to. A large property company is less likely to negotiate terms, while an independent landlord has more leeway to change prices.

If you’re facing a rent increase, start the conversation at least a month before your lease ends so your landlord has enough time to consider your offer or, if need be, you have time to make other plans.

Highlight your strengths as a tenant

If you’re looking for a new place, you can show you’re financially stable by offering the landlord a few concessions, such as paying a few months of rent in advance or signing on for a longer lease which saves the landlord money in turnover.

In the case of a rent increase, you should remind the landlord what a reliable, responsible tenant you’ve been. If you’ve always paid your rent on time, are courteous to other tenants and have kept the property in good shape, make sure your landlord knows it. It can help prove your worthiness and give them an incentive to keep your current rent.

Inquire about extending the lease

Showing that you plan to stay in your apartment for a substantial length of time can demonstrate that you’re a stable investment. If the lease is annual, offer to extend it to 18-24 months in exchange for keeping your current rent. If the landlord knows he or she won’t have to take a risk with a new tenant, this could be a good compromise.

Offer to end the lease in the summer

Landlords know the summer is usually an easier time to find tenants. Since most people have more flexible schedules then, such as recently graduated college students looking for first apartments, there are simply more people looking for rental spaces. Offering to end your lease in the summer can be an attractive option for a landlord, and they might be willing to shave prices in exchange for the convenient end date.

Research the property’s value

Consider if the is rent beyond the actual worth of the prevailing market. Research rent rates by talking to other landlords or neighbors in the area. Knowing average property prices and frequency of rent hikes in the neighborhood may give you leverage.

Be open to compromise

Unless you’re simply unwilling or unable to afford the rent rate, suggest a compromise amount that you can afford. For instance, if the rent is $100 higher than you’d like, offer to pay $50 instead. Back up your offer by mentioning your research findings and focusing on your stability as a tenant.

Negotiate in person, follow up in writing

Try to talk to the landlord in person as face to face negotiation is usually best. Remain calm, polite and professional during the discussion – never rude or defensive. Follow up the discussion within 24 hours with a brief email thanking them for the meeting and reiterating your “ask.”

Have a backup plan

If you’re looking for a new place, you should have more than one apartment, house or condo on your radar. Banking on a landlord decreasing rent prices can be risky, especially if you have a set date you need to move out of your old place.

If you’re facing a rent increase, you have to decide if you’d be willing to pay the higher rate just in case negotiations don’t go as planned. If you are definitely unwilling or unable to accept the new rate, it’s a good idea to start researching new apartments. If you decide to stay and pay more each month, you can request property upgrades to make the increase more palatable, such as repainting the walls or updating the landscaping.

Rent increases aren’t the only unexpected thing that can happen to renters. Find out how Nationwide renters insurance can protect you against theft, damage to personal belongings, and more.

Part 4 "Month-by-Month Guide for Big Purchases" coming next week

6 Ways to Save Money on Gas

The following is Part 2 of our 5 part series on mastering your home finances in 2018, courtesy of Nationwide Insurance's blog.

Your car payments and auto insurance payments may stay the same each month but gas prices can fluctuate wildly during the same period. Gas prices differ by state, by city, by season and by gas station, just to name a few variables, but consumers who shop wisely can trim their monthly car expenses.

These easy tips can help you find the best gas prices and save money:

Figure out what you’re currently spending on gas

The first step to finding cheap gas is to track what you’re currently paying to create a baseline. For example, if you traditionally get gas at the same station because it’s convenient, your habit may be costing you extra money.

Start looking at gas prices when you drive by different stations so you can see the variations. Notice whether the prices change on weekends versus weekdays, and which brands have higher costs than others.

Download a gas app

Many people like to use gas apps on their phones, especially when on vacation in unfamiliar areas. The apps may let you plug in your zip code, or it can automatically find your location using GPS tracking. These apps show gas stations nearby and their prices, as entered by other app users. Some will also show the average gas prices for the state or city. To find the best gas app, check your phone’s app store and look at reviews.

Try different locations

Gas stations often charge more if they’re in a prime location, like close to a freeway exit or at a major intersection. People will pay more for that convenience, especially if they don’t know the area. If you can wait, it’s easier to find cheap gas farther away from a main drag.

Only get premium gas if your car needs it

You may think getting premium gas will improve engine performance, but that’s not necessarily the case for all cars. In fact, some higher performance cars actually do just fine with regular gas. Learn more about whether premium gas is right for your car, so you aren’t wasting money with no return.

Pay with cash

Some stations offer a discount for cash versus paying with a credit card. Over time, this can add up. It can be worthwhile to keep extra cash on hand for gas purchases to pay the best gas prices.

Use a station loyalty credit card

Some gas stations offer loyalty credit cards, giving you a discount on gas prices when using that card. If you tend to shop for gas at the same station frequently, it might be worthwhile to use a loyalty card. Consider if you have to pay a yearly fee for the card and the interest rate if you don’t pay your credit card off in full each month.

Shopping smartly for gas can help you spend less on your car. Finding the right auto insurance policy can also save you money – especially if you qualify for a car insurance discount.

Part 3 "How to Effectively Negotiate Rent" coming next week

How to Master Your Home Finances in 2018

The following article is Part 1 in our 5 part series on finances, courtesy of Nationwide Insurance's blog.

It’s easy to treat family money like a utility: Bring in as much as you can, take out what you need, and just hope you don’t run out. But you wouldn’t run a business that way. Why would you do the same for your family? It can seem daunting, but it’s really not that hard to turn your family finances into a successful long-term enterprise.

1. Define your financial goals

Thinking about what you want to do with your money broken out in one, five and ten year increments is the first step to taking control. Whether you’re saving for your kids’ college funds or simply looking to upgrade your family’s vacation budget, write it down.

2. Examine your current budget

Find two or three hours of uninterrupted time with your paychecks, your bills and a calculator to see where you are today. You need to determine what percentage of your take home pay goes into these three categories:

1) Fixed costs: mortgage, rent, insurance, utilities

2) Financial goals: savings, paying off debts

3) Flexible costs: food, travel and entertainment

There are plenty of free online budget calculators, which can make this easy.

The “50-20-30” Rule. For a well-balanced budget,use the “50-20-30” rule of thumb: Spend no more than 50% of your take-home pay on fixed costs, at least 20% on financial goals, and no more than 30% on flexible costs. The lower you can get your fixed and flexible costs, the more you can put toward your financial goals.

3. Trim the fat

While some fixed costs— most notably mortgage or rent—are set in stone, others aren’t. If any costs strike you as conspicuously high, it’s time to shop around. There may be better deals to be had on phone service, cable, Internet service, auto insurance and health insurance.

Take a hard look at eliminating some costs all together. According to The NPD Group, pay TV subscriptions could exceed $200 a month by 2020—perhaps it’s time to ask yourself whether you need cable TV at all. Take an equally critical look at flexible costs—calculating the amount you spend on eating out or entertainment will probably increase your urge to cook more at home. You’ll likely find there are plenty of small ways you can save that will add up in the long run.

4. Spend smartly and pay off bad debt first

Concentrate on paying off “bad debts” like credit cards or personal loans before “good debts” like student loans, mortgages, or business loans. And prioritize each group by interest rates of your debts. Tackle the debts with higher rates first. Even if they’re bigger; in the long run, you’ll be saving by paying off less accumulated interest. If credit card debt is your particular demon, sit down and make a realistic credit card pay-off plan

A student loan is a classic example of “good debt”; not only was it an investment in your future, the interest rates on the loan are often lower, and the interest is often tax-deductible. Making your monthly student loan payments in full and on time can help boost your credit score

5. Pay now for tomorrow’s education

A 529 savings plan is a great way to prepare for ballooning college tuition rates. While the money you put into the 529 plan is subject to income tax, any earnings made through investment aren’t subject to federal tax (and, usually, not state tax) when you take them out to pay for tuition or other educational expenses.

There are two main types of 529 plans. Prepaid tuition plans pay for all or part of a year’s tuition ahead of time, locking in today’s rates no matter what the school costs 10 or 20 years from now.

Savings plans, which you to set up through a state or through educational institutions, allow you to contribute to an individual investment account much like a 401(k). The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has a huge amount of resources and tools for scoping out 529 plans, including an expense analyzer.

6. Find an app to help you stay on track

Once you define a new budget, there are plenty of apps and websites that can help you stick to spending limits that will make it work. The free app Mint will notify you if you’re nearing your monthly spending limit in a certain category, for example, as well as remind you when bills are due and track the growth of your savings.

You Need a Budget helps users track spending and set short-term savings targets, such as putting a little away every month for a payment you know you’ll have to make in a few months.

Figuring out how to get your fixed and flexible costs under control goes hand in hand with tending and growing that at-least 20% you’re putting toward financial goals. A little forethought in 2018 could get you started on the path to financial security for the rest of your life.

Part 2:  "6 Ways to Save Money on Gas" coming next week

 

 

 

Vitamin C for Colds and Flu

We're once again in the middle of the cold and flu season here in Northwest Ohio.  There are many supplements you can take to boost your immune system, thereby helping you fight off all the bugs going around.  Vitamin C is one of those supplements, and possibly the best source of vitamin C is Camu-Camu, the natural vitamin C plant.

Camu-Camu (Myrciaria dubia) is the name of the bush that grows in the Amazonian rain forest of Peru.  It's orange-colored fruit is about the size of a lemon and has a higher recorded source of natural vitamin C than any other known plant on earth.  As a comparison of forms of vitamin C,  oranges provide 500-4,000 ppm vitamin c, acerola provides 16,000 to 172,000 ppm vitamin c, and camu-camu provides 30 times more vitamin C than oranges.  In general, people who previously used synthetic forms of vitamin C found that they could use far less camu-camu (100 to 200 mg daily). 

The camu-camu fruit has a range of other health-promoting properties.  In addition to strengthening your immune system, it also helps maintain skin, eye and gum health, formation of white blood cells,  support for the brain, lymph glands, heart and lungs, and has energizing and mood-lifting benefits.  The plant provides antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, astringent, anti-viral, anti-pain, emollient and nutritive properties.  It has been found helpful in putting Shingles into remission, and some users found it helps stop cold sores very quickly, sometimes in just one day.

Besides being a great source of vitamin C, camu-camu also provides natural beta-carotene, calcium, iron, niacin, phosphorus, protein, riboflavin, thiamin and the amino acids, valine, leucine and serine. 

 

 

 

 

Home Fire Safety Tips

With colder weather comes the increased use of your home's furnace, fireplace, or other supplemental  heat source.  It's a good time for all of us to be reminded of fire safety.  The following fire prevention tips are courtesy of Cleaner & Dryer Restoration, Water & Fire Cleanup & Repair:

Smoke Alarm:

  • If you haven't already, change the batteries in your smoke alarms
  • Position your alarm away from air vents and fans
  • Keep your alarm clean and dust free
  • Remember to test your alarm once a month
  • Also change the batteries in your carbon monoxide detector

Fireplace:

  • Inspect your chimney regularly for cracks and obstructions
  • Don't let creosote build up in your chimney, as it could set off a roof fire
  • Don't "over build" your fire using too much paper.  You could ignite the soot in your chimney
  • Never burn charcoal in your fireplace.  It gives off deadly carbon monoxide
  • Keep your damper open if there are hot ashes in your fireplace.  Closing the damper could enable hot ashes to heat up and cause a damaging fire

Furnace:

  • Before you turn on your furnace, have it inspected by a qualified professional
  • Make sure to check the condition of the automatic controls and emergency shutoffs
  • Keep all trash and combustibles away from the furnace
  • Check your chimney for cracks or loose bricks
  • Seal all unused flue openings with solid masonry

Space Heater:

  • Make sure your space heater has a working safety light, alarm, automatic shut-off switch, and a cut-off device to prevent overheating
  • Keep all objects, people and pets at least three feet away from the heater
  • Never use a space heater in your bathroom.  Water and electric appliances don't mix