Homeowners Insurance: Time for an Annual Checkup

It’s time for your annual check-up. The good news is that for this one, you won’t have to don one of those revealing hospital gowns — and you may walk away with a healthier pocketbook.

We’re talking about a homeowners insurance check-up, a task you should complete once a year, ideally around renewal time. This will ensure your policy still provides the right level of coverage for your family, and your premium isn’t costing you more than it should.

Remember, homeowners insurance is essential. The coverage is designed to protect your home and its contents, as well as shield you from liability for accidents and such on your property.

Block out an hour of your time, call an insurance agent, and get answers to these three important questions.

What type of coverage do I have?

The most effective type of coverage is known as “replacement cost,” which covers, up to your policy limits, what it would take today to rebuild your house and restore your belongings, says Jerry Oshinsky, a partner at Jenner & Block in Los Angeles who has represented homeowners in litigation against insurers.

“Extended” replacement cost coverage provides protection to your policy limit, say $500,000, and then perhaps another 20% of the cost after that. Percentages vary, but in this example you could recoup up to $600,000 on a $500,000 policy, assuming your losses reach that high. Extended coverage can compensate for any unanticipated expenses like spikes in construction costs between policy renewals. Now harder to find due to the industry shift toward extended replacement coverage, “full” or “guaranteed” replacement coverage covers an entire claim regardless of policy limits.

A less attractive alternative is “actual cash value” coverage that usually takes into account depreciation, the decrease in value due to age and wear. With this type of policy, the $2,000 flat-screen TV you bought two years ago will be worth hundreds of dollars less today in the eyes of your claims adjuster. Kevin Foley, an independent insurance broker in Milltown, N.J., favors replacement cost coverage unless you can save at least 25% on the premium for going with actual cash value coverage instead.

Even if you have replacement cost protection for your dwelling and personal property, don’t assume everything is covered. Structures other than your home on your property — such as a detached garage or swimming pool — require separate coverage. So too do luxury items like jewelry, watches, and furs if you want full replacement cost because reimbursement for those items is typically capped.

How much coverage do I really need?

OK, now that you’re clear on what type of policy you have, you need to figure out how much policy you truly require in dollar terms. Let’s say you purchased your home five years ago and insured it for $200,000. Today, it’s worth $225,000. Simply increasing your coverage to $225,000 may nonetheless leave you underinsured. Here’s why.

The key to determining how much dwelling coverage you need isn’t the value of your home but the money you’d have to pay to rebuild it from scratch, says Carlos Aguirre, an agent for Liberty Mutual Insurance in Arlington, Texas. Call your local contractors’ or homebuilders’ association and inquire about the average per-square-foot construction cost in your area. If it’s $150 and your home is 2,000 square feet, then you should be insured for $300,000.

There’s no rule of thumb for how much your homeowners insurance should cost. Insurers use numerous factors—age, education level, creditworthiness—to determine pricing, so the same policy could run you more than your neighbor. In recent years the average annual premium was $804. Oshinsky advises against scrimping on insurance because big increases in coverage probably cost less than you’d think. He recently purchased a liability policy that cost $250 for the first $1 million in coverage. Adding another $1 million increased his premiums only $12.50 more.

How can I lower my premiums?

The higher your deductible, the amount you pay out of pocket before coverage kicks in, the lower your premium. Landing on the appropriate deductible level requires remembering that insurance should cover major calamities, not minor incidents, says Foley, the independent insurance broker. Most homeowners should be able to absorb modest losses like a broken window pane or a hole in the drywall without filing claims. If you can, then you’re wasting money with a $250 deductible.

Foley’s rule: If you’re a first-time homeowner and don’t have a lot of savings, moving up to a $500 deductible will probably stretch your budget. However, if you live in a ritzy home and drive an expensive car, then you should be able to afford a $1,000 deductible. In Milltown, N.J., for example, the premium for a $200,000 home with a $500 deductible would be $736, according to Foley; moving up to a $1,000 deductible drops the annual premium to $672. That’s $64 in savings.

Every major insurer offers discounts to various groups, such as university employees or firefighters. Figure about 5%. Ask which affiliations would entitle you to a discount and how much. If an AARP membership would result in a $50 savings, pay the $16 dues and pocket the $36 difference. Many insurers also offer discounts ranging from 1% to 10% or more for installing protective devices like alarms and deadbolt locks, for going claim-free for an extended period, or for insuring both your car and your home with the same carrier.

Visit Houselogic.com for more articles like this.  Reprinted from Houselogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

Converted Historic Mill on Andrew Brook

Brooks were essential to local mills centuries ago and this quaint, magical 1800s home can be enjoyed today with beautiful Andrew Brook flowing directly behind the house and mill barn.  Sunny and bright from the plentiful windows in the barn, all views of the brook are lovely.  The sizable deck connecting the kitchen area to the barn provides great space for easy entertaining and a relaxing private retreat overlooking the gardens.  Inviting nooks and crannies (including a secret door from house to barn) and front and back staircases make this house a unique and pleasing property.  Offered at $178,000.

???????????????????????????????Susie Moore, Listing Agent, 603-526-4116

You’ll be moving in the right direction with Coldwell Banker Milestone Real Estate.

Halloween Happenings!

Halloween2Halloween trick-or-treating in the town of Sunapee will be held Saturday, 10/31/15 from 5-8pm.  Central Street will be closed to traffic to allow children to go from house to house safely.  Check out more ghosts and goblins by the riverside and join the Tailgate trick-or-treating.  Cross over the covered bridge and take a stroll through the haunted woods to have your fortune told, if you dare!

New London will host their Haunted Woods on Friday, October 30.  From 5:30-6:30pm the young children can trick or treat then walk through Spring Ledge to the corn maze.  From 7:30-8:30pm the scarier version of the haunted woods will begin and is recommended for ages 12 and up.  The haunted walk takes place behind the old Kearsarge Middle School and is free of charge.

Regular trick-or-treating in New London is October 31 from 4:30-8:30pm.

Click here for a complete list of NH Trick-or-Treat times.

Enjoy and stay safe!


Looking for a Building Lot?

Here’s an incredible value for the price!  Wooded lot with stone walls in back, adding a typical touch of New England.  Nice Neighborhood setting and located on a quiet dead-end road.  Under 7 miles to Mt. Sunapee Ski Resort and about 1 miles to I-89.  Snowmobile trails nearby for winter fun.  For the bargain priced buyer, this lot is worth a look. Abutting lot also available for the same price. Offered at $22,500.

86 5140Donna Forest, Listing Broker, 603-526-4116

Teamwork from the Team that works – Coldwell Banker Milestone Real Estate.

Don’t Overlook Your Basement

HR.Donna_3144A basement is the foundation of a home, however sellers often overlook it.  A damp or wet basement can alarm potential buyers.  Cobwebs, clutter, mold, leaky pipes, etc., all send a negative signal.  Here are some tips to ensure that your basement does not derail the sale of your house.

  • If you have a water problem in your basement, FIX IT!  A damp basement can rot sills and wood beams, compromising the structural integrity.  There are companies out there that specialize in fixing wet basements.
  • De-clutter.  This allows buyers to see how they can use the space.
  • Clean up cobwebs, make sure all the lights work.  Having buyers walk face first in to a giant cobweb does not endear the house to them.
  • By nature, basements are damp in the summer – run a dehumidifier.
  • Have your furnace checked.  Make repairs on any leaking pipes.

As you prepare your house to go on the market, it’s important not only to spruce up the living spaces, but the basement as well.  Feel free to email or call me if you’d like a free booklet on how to enhance your house for a successful sale.  603-526-4116, Donna@DonnaForest.com, www.DonnaForest.com.

Real estate markets are local, and we have the real scoop on ours. Coldwell Banker Milestone Real Estate


Perfect for Vacation or Year-Round!

Calling all outdoor enthusiasts!  This sweet home is in move-in condition and just 2 miles west of Mt. Sunapee Resort for skiing and summer fun.  Enjoy a day at the lake or mountain and be home in minutes.  Affordable and convenient for families enrolled in local ski programs and summer day camps.  3 bedrooms, sunny location.  Work and play in a beautiful part of New Hampshire!  Offered at $200,000.  For more details and photos, visit http://tour.circlepix.com/home/FGNTX4.

???????????????????????????????Susie Moore, Listing Agent, 603-526-4116

Real estate markets are local, and we have the real scoop on ours. Coldwell Banker Milestone Real Estate


Want to Move Quickly?

This new listing in Newbury is ready for you to move right in!  Pristine, well-cared for home with 3 bedrooms, 2 baths is in a private setting on 6+ acres.  The kitchen is updated with granite countertops and a large island for stools, newer appliances and area for a table.  Open to the living room.  Pendant lighting.  The separate dining room has French doors that open to the large, inviting deck.  Perfect for entertaining!  Offered at $250,000.  For more photos and details, visit http://tour.circlepix.com/home/WPM5TU.

CunninghamChristina McKee, Listing Agent, 603-526-4116

Known for service, trusted for results – Coldwell Banker Milestone Real Estate.

Death by Photos

HR.Donna_3144Are your listing photos killing the sale of your house? Did you know over 90% of buyers will start their search online and 83% of buyers rated photos as the most useful website feature? Which means buyers are weeding out the houses they don’t want to see even before they go out with an agent. All based on photos. I am constantly amazed at the bad photos when looking at our MLS – kitchens with cluttered countertops and refrigerators covered with papers, bedrooms littered with clothes & toys and unmade beds, heavy curtains suffocating windows, living rooms with too much furniture and too many decorations, etc. Not to mention the blurry photos, shots of useless areas like hallways, camera flash back from windows and mirrors, and shooting from bad angles.

My advice? If you truly want to sell your home, you should be preparing the house before photos are taken. Clean up, de-clutter, remove excess furniture, and yes, get all that stuff off of your refrigerator & countertops! You also should double check how the photos look online and ask your agent to re-take anything you think looks bad. Do not underestimate the power of photography! If you are looking for an agent to give you straight advice on prepping your property for sale, then give me a call!  603-526-4116, donna@donnaforest.com, www.donnaforest.com

Statistics from the National Association of REALTORS® 2014 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers

Known for service, trusted for results – Coldwell Banker Milestone Real Estate.

Price Reduction on Eastman Condo

Come enjoy Eastman with its championship golf course, tennis courts, six beaches and miles of hiking, cross country skiing, and snowshoeing.  This easy care contemporary condo is in pristine move-in condition!  The updated kitchen boasts granite countertops, tile backsplash, and stainless steel appliances.  The sunny living room is the perfect place for relaxing with a good book by the propane stove.  Large deck offers plenty of space for outdoor entertaining.  3 levels of living space lets everyone spread out, but most likely you will be out enjoying nature or the lake.  Carefree living at its best!  Was $169,900, now $134,900.  Call today for your private showing.

DeWispelaere1Donna Forest, Listing Broker, 603-526-4116

Known for service, trusted for results – Coldwell Banker Milestone Real Estate.

Top Ten Common Repair Costs

In the life of every home, repairs happen. Here are the top 10 most common repairs that, sooner or later, your house will require.

Congratulations on buying your first house. Now, you have to learn how to keep it in good repair. To be safe, you should set aside money every year — 1% to 3% of your home’s purchase price — for repairs and maintenance.

The good news is that most repairs are simple, inexpensive, and DIY-friendly. If you can fix stuff yourself, you’ll only pay for the cost of materials and save a bundle on these common repairs and replacements.

1.  Replace Toilet Fill Valves

That annoying sound of water continually filling and draining from your toilet tank is often caused by leaky fill valve, which a plumber can replace, stopping water waste and restoring quiet. Plumber rates vary widely around the country, from $45 to $150 per hour, and the job will take about two hours — the minimum some plumbers require just to take the job.
Labor: $50 to $200
Materials: $11 to $23
Total: $61 to $223
Related: Home Maintenance 101: 7 Things Every Homeowner Should Know

2.  Repair a Leaky Faucet

The water torture drip-drip-drip from a leaky faucet won’t just drive you insane, it can drive up water bills, too. Depending on the type of faucet you have, fixes typically involve replacing damaged rubber washers (10 for $2), O-rings (10 for $2), or a faucet cartridge ($8 to $30).
Labor: $95 to $300
Materials: $2 to $30
Total: $97 to $330
Related: The WaterSense Label: What to Look For

3.  Replace Ceiling Fan

If you’ve got a ceiling fan, sooner or later the motor will burn out, the blades will warp, and fashions will change, so you’ll need to replace it. Replacing isn’t a big deal, because upgraded wiring, a reinforced ceiling box, and a light switch with ceiling fan controls are already in place. What you’re paying for is an electrician’s time — one or two hours — and a new fixture.
Labor: $50 to $200
Materials: $54 to $1,000 and up
Total: $104 to $1,200
Related: Ceiling Fans: Know the Spin Before You Install

4.  Repair Drywall

Nicks, gashes, and smashes inevitably mar your beautiful walls. You’ll have to patch and paint to make them look as good as new. A painter can do both jobs and will probably give you a flat rate that will include patching or filling blemishes, then sanding, priming, and painting.

Painters charge $25 to $62 per hour for labor or $2.68 to $4.60 per square foot including materials. Figure it will take about three hours to repair a wall, including drying time for the patching compound and paint. It’s a good idea to save up painting chores so you have enough to keep a painter busy while repairs cure.

Materials include paint at $12 to $50 or more a gallon, which should cover about 350 square feet; plus another $10 to $50 for brushes, rollers, drop clothes, and drywall patching compound.
Labor: $75 to $186
Materials: $22 to $100
Total: $97 to $286
Related: Patch a Drywall Hole

5.  Repair Cracked Tile

Tile is hard and durable, but drop something heavy on it and it’s likely to crack — a reason to always order more tile than you need so you’ll always have spares. To replace cracked tiles, a handyman must pry out the damaged tiles, scrape away old fixative, re-glue new tiles, and spread new grout. Replacing a 2-foot-by-2-foot section of tile should take one to two hours, not including the drying time required for the adhesive to set.
Labor: $30 to $125 per hour; with possible $150 to $350 minimum charge for a handyman
Materials: $1 to $20 per square foot
Total: $34 to $430
Related: Smart Tips for Choosing Bathroom Flooring

6.  Replace Caulk Around Tubs, Sinks, and Showers

Caulk is the waterproof seal around sinks, tubs, and showers that prevents moisture from seeping through gaps and onto drywall and flooring. When caulk cracks or peels, it should be replaced immediately to prevent mold and rot.

A handyman can dig out old caulk around a tub and reseal with new in about an hour.
Labor: $30 to $125 per hour; with possible $150 to $350 minimum charge for a handyman
Materials:  $1 to $4 for a tube of bathroom caulk
Total: $31 to $354
Related: How to Remove Caulk

7.  Fix Gutters

Gutters and downspouts carry water from rain and snow away from your house and onto the ground. Sometimes the weight of wet snow and soggy leaves puts too much pressure on gutters, causing them to pull away from the house or pitch at inefficient angles.

A gutter contractor will clean gutters, and replace or reinstall supportive hardware and hangers. To restore the correct pitch, the contractor must detach and reattach each gutter section.
Labor: $127 to $282 (depending on length of gutter)
Materials: $10 for five hangers; $6 to $9 for gutter sealant
Total: $143 to $301
Related: How to Unclog a Gutter

8.  Fix Out-of-Alignment Doors

Over time, your house moves as its foundation settles and building materials expand and contract with changes in humidity. The movement often is noticed when doorframes shift slightly, causing hinges to creak and doors to not shut properly.

Adding wooden shims to frames and hinges can bring doors back into alignment and let them easily open and close once again. Replacing worn-out screws with longer screws helps secure hinges tightly.

A handyman can fix a door in about an hour. Materials will include shims and screws.
Labor: $30 to $125 per hour; with possible $150 to $350 minimum charge for a handyman
Materials: $5
Total: $35 to $355
Related: Cool Improvements: Replacing Your Interior Doors

9.  Repair Ice Damming

If your house isn’t insulated correctly or your roof isn’t designed correctly, melting roof snow can run off and freeze around roof edges. Eventually, this can form an ice dam that creeps up your roof, damaging shingles and forcing melting water into your home.

One popular solution to ice damming is to install a heating cable along the roof’s edge, which warms the area and prevents freezing. It’s not a DIY job. Roofing contractors will install the cable, and an electrician will install outlets that will juice up the cable. If you want a thermostat to turn the cable on and off automatically, that’ll be extra, too.
Labor and materials: $30 to $60 per linear foot
Total: $371 to $1,319 (average job cost)
Related: How to Prevent Ice Dams

10.  Fix a Faulty Light Switch

Sometimes you turn on the light but nothing happens; or sparks crackle, and the light turns on. It’s disconcerting, but most likely it’s an easy fix. An electrician will turn off the power, take off the faceplate, check and perhaps tighten wires; or replace the switch. All told, it will take less than an hour.
Labor: $50 to $100 per hour
Materials: $1 to $6 for a single pole light switch
Total: $41 to $106
Related: How to Repair a Light Switch

By:  Lisa Kaplan Gordon – is an avid gardener, a member of the Fairfax County Master Gardeners Association, and a builder of luxury homes in McLean, Va. She’s been a Homes editor for Gannett News Service and has reviewed home improvement products for AOL

Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/repair-tips/home-repair-costs/#ixzz3k7vzJw8w
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Visit Houselogic.com for more articles like this.  Reprinted from Houselogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®