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Sump Pump Maintenance Tips in Sarasota

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When a severe storm hits, homeowners may experience excess water in their basements or the lower levels of their home. A sump pump is an important tool that can help protect your property by controlling water and keeping your home dry.

Sump pumps are typically found in the lowest part of a house, such as a basement, and are usually professionally installed in a pit specifically designed for the sump pump.  The sump pump’s primary job is to pump water outside and away from the home. There are generally two types of sump pumps, pedestal and submersible.

Generally, sump pumps are very dependable.  Many are equipped with battery powered flood alarms that you alert you if there is a problem with pump or water is rising.  Modern systems can notify you or your alarm company if water backs up.

Annual sump pump maintenance is simple and takes a few minutes.

  • The pump should be plugged into a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI).  Check to see that it is still plugged in and operating.  Periodically, breaker circuits in damp areas may be tripped so it’s important to check occasionally to make sure that the GFCI does not need to be reset.   Also check the power cord’s condition.
  • Check that the outlet drainage hoses connected tightly and draining at least 20 feet away from your home’s foundation.
  • Remove the submersible pump and clean the bottom grate.  Check to see no debris is clogging the pump and preventing it from working properly.  During operation, small stones can get pulled into the grate and block it.  Clearing any stones or debris will prevent the pump from being damaged.
  • During your inspection, pour water into the sump pit.  This will test to see if the sump pump starts up automatically and quickly drains the water.  If it doesn’t, have a professional inspect it.
  • Since sump pumps run on electricity, consider installing a battery backup to help ensure yours will not fail, even in the event of a power outage. If you have installed a battery backup, during your test of the sump pump installation, unplug the pump to ensure that it will function properly on battery power.  For homeowners on a municipal water system, water-powered sump pumps are an alternative.  However, while these systems will not be affected by an electrical outage, due to their design, they will use the same amount of city water to operate that the pump is removing from the basement.  This makes them viable for use as a backup but not as a main pumping system.
  • During your inspection, if you discover that your sump pump is not functioning properly contact a professional for inspection or repair.

Finally, as most homeowner’s policies do not cover water backups in the basement, homeowners should talk with their insurance agent about additional coverage.  This will ensure that the homeowner is covered if there is a sump discharge or overflow.

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United States Stands to Lose $880 Billion in Real Estate by Year 2100

Home Underwater

Americans certainly have a love affair with the water. When building luxury homes, there’s no place better to situate the mansion than on appealing shore front property. However, there is a small problem with this practice: climate change is raising the oceans’ levels every year. Inch by inch coastline is disappearing into the expanding salt water barrier. How much will disappear and how soon is on everyone’s mind.

The real estate website Zillow reported in March that a new study finds that up to $880 billion worth of luxury homes will have vanished by the end of this century. It’s a huge number! Is your neighborhood in trouble? Read on to find out.

Rising Tides

The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is projecting that sea levels will rise as much as six feet in the next hundred years. When walking along the beach, don’t consider that you will lose a six foot wide path on the sand, look over your head and then see where that line runs to on the beachfront homes. For neighborhoods built on pilings, next to canals and on small islands, it is a guaranteed death knell. The lowest projections have the oceans rising by just two feet, but that still will threaten a significant amount of property.

Florida at Greatest Risk

The world’s largest retirement community stands to lose the most homes to the growing ocean problem. Wealthy individuals seeking a constant temperature and healthy economy select the most southern state of the 48 to settle their dream home, and the closer to the water the better. Nearly 13% of Florida’s private residences would be at risk with a the higher rising rate, totaling nearly a million homes worth up to $400 billion dollars.

California’s Coast Going Down

In the Newport Beach area of California, the median home price is significantly higher than the rest of the nation. Which means that while only 4,000 homes might sink into the ocean their combined value is currently over $10 billion dollars. Would the neighborhoods situated on cliffs fare any better? While their foundations might be safe from encroaching waters, the loss of usable beaches would significantly reduce their property value.

New York Loses Long Island

The farther you travel from New York City into Long Island Sound, the larger the estates become. However, the sea is held back in these sections by nothing more than minimal sea walls, which would drown beneath a six foot rise. 32,000 homes on some of the most desirable real estate in the North East would be affected, for a total loss of $27 billion.

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Unusual Risks of Pool Ownership in Sarasota, FL

Your dream is finally coming true.  The swimming pool you’ve wanted for so long is going into your backyard soon.  Before it’s built, you need to plan out your insurance coverage to protect your investment.  The first thought in most people’s mind is liability coverage for accidents.  We all know accidents are possible when you have a pool, and you definitely want to be covered for those.

Outside of the common accidents, there are unusual risks associated with pools that many people never think about as possibilities.  You want your insurance policy to help you be as prepared as possible for any unusual situation.  Here are a few out of the ordinary events that can happen to help you plan ahead.

  • Pool Cleaning Incident – Plan to cover the pool itself and the surrounding property in case of damages.  For example, your pool is emptied to be cleaned, and there is a major rain storm before it’s refilled.  If the water weight in the swimming pool is not more than the water pressure in the soil surrounding the pool, the pressure will push the pool out of the ground and take the surrounding concrete with it.  Pools do have a pressure valve to help stop these situations, but if it fails the pool will pop up and out of the ground.  A pool that pops out this way will likely be damaged beyond repair, as well as anything attached to it, like the walkway and plumbing.
  • Storms – Living in Sarasota, Florida tropical storms happen.  If you have an empty pool and a tropical storm hits, the water can accumulate under the pool and push it out of the ground in the same way as described above.  A storm can also pick up debris from anywhere and land it in your pool causing damage.  For example, a neighbor is having their roof repaired, a storm hits, and the materials like old shingles that contain asbestos end up in your pool causing damage.
  • Unfortunate Events – There are other accidents that the everyday person would ever think of happening.  For example, you put in a light fixture above the pool that happens to have a mercury-vapored bulb to increase the efficiency and life expectancy of the bulb.  The light explodes and rains particles into and around your swimming pool causing significant damage.  The pool will need to be tested for mercury, drained, cleaned, and refilled, as well as the cost of removing any traces of mercury around the pool.
  • Unexpected Landing – Someone crashes their vehicle into your pool causing damage to the structure of the pool.  You will have to drain, clean, and refill your pool.  Then the concrete and cool deck are damaged removing the vehicle from the pool.  The driver was an uninsured motorist, and you are stuck with the bill.

Each of these situations actually happened, and the insured policy holder ran into problems with their pool coverage because they had clauses excluding certain events related to the accident.  You do not want to end up in a situation without coverage for your pool.  Swimming pools are great to have, but the expenses from an unusual incident can run up quickly.

Not all policies will cover specific types of accidents, and most have exclusions.  It is important to discuss and plan your swimming pool policy with an insurance agent in Sarasota, Florida.  Enjoy playing in your pool with the peace of mind that your investment and everything you work hard for is protected by your swimming pool insurance policy.

 

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Health Insurance Open Enrollment 2017 in Sarasota

minimalistic illustration of a doctor holding a blackboard with Open Enrollment text, eps10 vector

It’s that time of year again – time to enroll in health coverage for 2017.  Open enrollment begins on October 1 for plans without financial assistance and on November 1 for plans with financial assistance.

So what’s the difference in shopping in October versus November?  The plans available starting on October 1 through Florida Blue do not include financial assistance to help lower plan premiums or out of pocket costs.  Plans that become available on November 1on the government’s Marketplace offer financial assistance to those who qualify.  We’re here to help you down the path that’s best for you, and we can help you directly or through the Marketplace to find the right Florida Blue plan for you and your family.

All of our health plans include the essential health benefits of the Affordable Care Act, plus member programs to support you and your family in your pursuit of health.  Below are some things to keep in mind as you consider your coverage options for next year.

If it seems overwhelming, don’t worry! We’re here for you. Simply call a local agent or visit us a Florida Blue Center.

What is Health Coverage?

At some point, everyone will need to use the health care system – whether for routine care, to treat an illness or after an accident.  Health coverage provides you with the ability to get medical care when you need it and protects you from high treatment costs.  It will also pay for preventive services, such as annual exams and testing, that will help keep you healthy.

Once you enroll in a plan, you pay a monthly bill for your health plan – known as a premium.  When you receive care, you may have to pay part of the cost – known as cost sharing.  Health insurers will have a group of doctors, hospitals, pharmacies and other health care providers they have contracted with – known as a network – and using these providers will lower your costs.

Selecting a Plan

When reviewing health plans, you should consider several factors:

· Premium:  The monthly amount you pay for your health plan.  In general, plans with lower premiums have higher cost-sharing amounts (deductibles, copayments and coinsurance).

· Member Cost-Sharing:  The out-of-pocket expenses you will pay for care, such as the deductible, copayments, coinsurance and out-of-pocket maximum.

· Provider Network:  The group of doctors, hospitals, pharmacies and other health care providers that are contracted to provide services for a health plan.

If you decide not to enroll in coverage for 2017, the annual penalty for being uninsured will increase from the 2016 amounts of the greater of either $695 or 2.5% of taxable income.  In addition, you will be responsible for all of the costs related to any health care treatment or services you receive.

Enrolling in a Plan on the Marketplace

Florida Blue agents can help you apply for coverage through the Marketplace. We’ll take you through the steps to enroll in coverage through the Marketplace. This is the only way to receive financial assistance to help with health care costs.

To find out if you qualify for financial assistance, you will need to provide information about you and your household, including income and any health coverage you currently have.  Click here for a checklist of the information you may need to provide in your Marketplace application.

Based on your household size and income, there are two types of financial assistance available:

· A premium tax credit (or subsidy), which will help lower your monthly health plan premiums. If you qualify, the government will send these tax credits directly to your health insurance company to lower your monthly premium, and the insurer will send you a monthly bill for any balance due.

· Cost-sharing reductions lower out-of-pocket expenses for covered health services. If you are receiving tax credits to buy Marketplace coverage and your income qualifies, then you can enroll in specific ‘Silver’ plans that have lower deductibles and coinsurance costs.

If you are already enrolled in a plan through the Marketplace for 2016, it is important for you to ensure that your household size and income information is updated in your Marketplace application so that you qualify for the correct amount of financial assistance in 2017.

Reporting Changes to the Marketplace

When you choose a Florida Blue health plan through the Marketplace, you’ll have to update your Marketplace application with changes to your income, household, address and health coverage eligibility as soon as possible.  These updates may change the coverage or savings you’re eligible for. Florida Blue agents can help you do this.

Don’t Wait!  Make sure you have coverage January 1, 2017

· October 1, 2016: Open Enrollment starts for Florida Blue plans without financial assistance.

· November 1, 2016:  Open Enrollment starts for 2017 Florida Blue plans on the Marketplace that offer financial assistance. We’ll help you with your Marketplace application.

· December 15, 2016:  Last day to enroll in coverage that will start on January 1, 2017

· January 1, 2017:  2017 coverage starts for those who enroll in or change plans by December 15

· January 15, 2017:  Last day to enroll in coverage that will start on February 1, 2017

· January 31, 2017:  2017 Open Enrollment ends.  If you enroll between January 16 and January 31, your coverage will start March 1, 2017.

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Kitchen Fire Safety in Sarasota

Usually, when a fire starts in the kitchen, you automatically assume it’s due to a cooking hazard. A skillet goes unattended for too long or the toaster malfunctions and a flame ignites. Although there are many instances where cooking or cooking appliances are the main causes of kitchen fires, there are certain circumstances where fires are perpetrated by non-cooking appliances, like the refrigerator or dishwasher. There are several tips you should keep in mind in order to avoid a fire that may start in the kitchen with appliances that generally are not used for cooking.

  • Do not use extension cords. Refrigerators, dishwashers, and freezers should be plugged directly into the wall outlet. Using an extra extension cable can overwhelm the circuit and eventually a spark could develop.
  • Use grounded outlets for large appliances. If you did not already have one, have an inspection made of your outlets to make sure that they are grounded. A lightning storm could easily attack a unit that is not properly grounded, causing a kitchen fire.
  • Get rid of damaged power cords. Overtime you should replace power cords that have become visibly frayed. Small drops of water on exposed wiring can lead to a disastrous outcome. Buy cords for your recommended refrigerator or freezer. Have the make and model handy when you go to the home improvement store.
  • Be aware of grease buildup. Ovens and stoves harbor grease that can buildup overtime and easily cause an unexpected fire. Many modern ovens come with a self-cleaning feature and should be used regularly. If you must hand clean your oven, use a cleanser that is not abrasive and won’t leave a layer of residue.
  • Flammable liquids should be kept outside. Do not place any materials that are flammable, including dishtowels, near a gas range’s open flame or a stove’s surface. You should keep all other items, like lighter fluid, alcohol, or nail polish in the bathroom or garage.
  • Small appliances can be a fire hazard. You should unplug any small appliance when it is not being used. Not only will you save energy, but you can also prevent an unnecessary hazard. Also, check the consumer government website to see if your small appliance has not been recalled. There are many dangers in using an electrical item that is not safe.
  • Do not use the oven as a heater. It is not a good idea to leave the oven door open in order to heat your home. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, heating your home with a gas range or oven can cause a rise in carbon monoxide or CO levels. CO is an odor-free gas that can kill anyone.

Anytime there is a fire in your kitchen, you should call 9-1-1 first. Fires can rage quickly and consume your home in an unpredictable way. Typically, kitchen fires contain grease, so dumping a bucket of water over it will not extinguish it. A fire extinguisher will come in handy in this situation, so have one beneath the sink or in a nearby pantry.

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12 Ways to Get a Discount on Your Homeowner Insurance Rate in Sarasota

discount lowest price special offer bargain and sales discount, road sign billboard. 3D illustration

One of the greatest American dreams is owning a home. That is probably why so many families have invested their hard-earned money into buying a home. It simply makes sense that they want to protect their investment by getting homeowners insurance, especially since all mortgage companies require it. Homeowners insurance helps cover the costs if your home is broken into by thieves, gets damaged or destroyed by fire or a natural disaster. It also helps cover liability costs if you get sued by someone who was injured in your property. Insurance premium rates can be pretty expensive and the rates may vary depending on the provider. In this article we will identify 12 ways that you can get a discount on your homeowner’s insurance rate.

  1. Quit Smoking

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, more than 7,500 fires in the US are caused by smoking incidents. Smoking is also the leading source of home-fire related deaths. Non-smokers pay less premiums for health insurance, life insurance, and homeowner’s insurance.

  1. Invest in Renovations

Homeowner insurance premiums rise as your home ages, but there is a way to prevent these increases, investing in renovations. You can lower your insurance rate by renovating your roof, plumbing, foundation, or home electrical wiring. Be cautious of the renovation materials you choose. Choosing the right fire-resistance siding or shingles for the roof can make a big difference.

  1. Store High-Priced Possessions Out Of Your Home

Keeping high-priced possessions such as artwork, jewelry, or other valuables in your home increases your insurance premiums. By keeping these items stored in a safety deposit box you can reduce your homeowner’s insurance premiums. If you have artwork you would like to display and you happen to have your own business, you may consider displaying it there and having it covered under your business’s insurance. Depending on your industry you may even be able to write it off as a business expense.

  1. Shop Around and Compare Prices

Every insurance company has its own way of determining prices and premiums. Once you have determined how much coverage you’ll be needing, shop around and compare insurance rates of multiple providers. Search online for customer reviews and make sure to thoroughly read and understand the fire print. If you don’t read the fine print you may end up with an insurance plan that excludes something you need, such as coverage for pet-related accidents.

  1. Use Your Current Insurance Provider

If you already have an insurance company that you are satisfied with you may consider also getting homeowner’s insurance from them. Many insurance companies offer discounts to customers who bundle multiple types of insurances together. Staying with one insurance provider can also mean that you earn discounts over time for being a long-term loyal customer. Of course, you should still occasionally shop around for other providers just in case you find a better price for the coverage you need.

  1. Increase Home Security

Homeowner insurance companies often give discounted premiums to homeowners who have a security system, a fence, a water shut-off valve, as well as a safe for your valuables.

  1. Reconsider What You Have in Your Home Office

When insurance companies provide insurance to home with home offices any office supply or equipment that is present can lead to higher losses if there is a burglar or fire, which is why they charge a much higher premium. Having a home office has great advantages and when you take the costs into consideration you may find it beneficial to get a separate coverage for that particular room so that you can enjoy your tax benefits.

  1. Avoid Moving Hazards Into Your Home

Insurance companies often charge higher rates for homes that have a treehouse, a pool, or a trampoline, because they know accidents may occur. While it may be easy to get rid of a trampoline, it won’t be as easy to get rid of a beloved family pet with a bad reputation (such as pit bulls or Rottweilers). You are likely not going to be willing to give up in your pet just to lower insurance premiums. Because of this, you should always consider the consequences before moving a hazard into your home.

  1. Decrease Your Coverage

If you’re looking to lower your insurance costs you may want to consider lowering your overall coverage. Your property value is often based on your home, your land, as well as your personal belonging. However, if your home was destroyed by a major disaster, it’s highly unlikely that your land will also be destroyed. Insurance agents can often discuss the coverage with you and use a home-replacement cost calculater to help you determine what the right coverage is.

  1. Increase Your Deductible

Your deductible is the amount of money you must pay out of pocket before your insurance begins covering costs. By increasing your deductible your premium rates will go down. If you’re getting an insurance plan that only protects against extreme situations raising your deductible is a good ideas. Unfortunately, if you are looking for an insurance plan to cover small claims as well as off-premises theft you are better off keeping your current deductible.

  1. Raise Your Credit Score

If you’re planning on buying homeowner’s insurance soon or changing insurance providers, use a credit reporting service to look into your current credit scores. Take time to understand which credit score your insurance company uses to determine your premium. Remember, the higher your credit score the lower your premium will be.

  1. Reconsider Filing an Insurance Claim

Your insurance is meant to protect you financially if something bad occurs, but the truth is, it’s not always worth filing a claim. For example, if a thief takes your $700 tv and you have a deductible of $500, you’re better off paying for a replacement out of your own pocket. Filing a claim for those extra $200 will end up costing you a lot more in increased premiums when your insurance plan is renewed. Many insurance providers offer discounted premiums for homeowners who have gone multiple years without filing a claim, which can help you save a lot.

 

These tips should help you lower your overall insurance rate premiums.

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Safe Driving for Teens in Sarasota

A Teenage boy and new driver behind wheel of his car

The teenage years bring on a whole new set of worries for parents. In addition to growing bodies (and appetites) and a more active social life, teenagers also begin testing the waters with one of the most daunting tasks we perform- driving a car. As with many other discussions that you have with your teenagers, having a discussion about driving safely can be tough, but it doesn’t have to be as long as you know how to approach the subject.

Provide Information: The National Highway and Traffic Safety Information and the Centers for Disease Control websites, as well as your state issued driver’s handbooks are valuable sources of information about how to drive safely, as well as information about the risks of driving under the influence, while using cell phones and other dangerous behavior. Learn this information and pass it on to your teen when you talk to them about driving safety.

Lead by Example: You are your children’s first example of how to behave in the world, and if they see you being a reckless driver, then they may adopt similar behavior. Drive safely while your teens are in the car, and open up a dialogue about what you’re doing when you’re driving and why you’re doing it.

Talk with Confidence: Know and understand that you are and can be a positive influence on your teen and that you can guide their behavior when they’re driving.

Set Expectations: As you talk to your teen, talk to them in a clear and calm voice, Explain that you will have expectations for them while driving, and that there are consequences to driving recklessly. You can even present these expectations in a parent-teen driving contract.

Check In with Your Teen: Be an active part of your teen’s learning experience. Provide them with positive feedback and check in on them even after they’ve obtained their license. Continue having talks with them about driving safely. Learning how to drive takes time, experience, patience, judgment and skill. An optional measure to take is to install a monitoring device which provides data on driving behaviors that may need improving.

With time, your teen will become a safe and effective driver, which benefits them (and you) on insurance rates and while you will always be concerned when your children go out into the world, if you instill safe driving practices into them, you will be more confident in their abilities when they get behind the wheel.

 

 

 

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Hurricane Facts and Myths in Sarasota

Hurricane preparation protects your family and valuables, but you may have heard information that’s a bit nonfactual. For instance, using tape to form an “X” over the window will not keep it from breaking, nor will it keep you safe. You should opt for permanent storm shutters or plywood boards. This isn’t the only misconception of preparing for a hurricane.

Myth #1: You Only Need to Protect Windows That Face the Water
Winds from a hurricane are powerful. They may lead to landscape materials and other outdoor items becoming projectiles that destroy your siding and windows. You never know quite which way they’re going to fly; therefore, you need to secure all sides of the house to protect against high winds and flying objects, not just water.

Myth #2: Your Body Weight is Enough to Protect Windows and Doors
Your body weight isn’t enough to lean against a window or door in order to keep it from blowing inward. You put yourself in danger when you stand in front of a window or door. You actually want to stay away from windows and doors. It’s best to close all interior doors in addition to bracing external doors prior to a storm. Instead of standing in front of a door, hide in a closet, hallway or interior room on the lowest level of the house.

Myth#3: Alleviate Pressure by Opening Windows 
Some say the pressure builds up in a home and causes structural damage. This misconception does completely the opposite of what people say it does. You won’t alleviate pressure; you put you and your family more at risk. The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration states houses aren’t built airtight, and over-pressurization to this degree isn’t possible. Open windows during a storm allow flying objects to enter the home. Closing the windows will prevent objects from flying in.

Myth #4: It Will Not Happen Here
This is a huge myth, probably the biggest. Never believe it won’t happen here. Every year, strong winds, floods, rains and coastal storms affect areas other than just coastal regions. Hurricanes affect areas inland as well as on the coast, even though they’re not always hit in the same way. You can say it won’t happen and even hope it doesn’t, but nothing will prevent it. You must prepare to keep your family, yourself and your business safe.

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