Homeowner's Academy

This is your guide to interesting facts, tips and general homeowner information. We hope you find the information useful - and feel free to share with friends!

  • Hazard vs. Homeowners Insurance: What's the Difference?

    Mar 9, 2021, 09:08 AM by Guylaine Cadorette
    Hazard insurance is a type of coverage that is typically included in a homeowners' insurance policy. Lenders often require hazard insurance to approve a mortgage, so you will want to make sure that your homeowners' insurance covers damage specific to the dwelling.
    Full story
  • Does Home Insurance Cover Theft? What Is & Isn't Covered

    Feb 17, 2021, 15:11 PM by Chantel Robillard
    Your home insurance often includes personal property coverage that insures your belongings in the event of a burglary and theft. Every insurance policy is unique, so it's important to review the extent of coverage you have for your valuables and belongings.
    Full story
  • Do You Have to Have Homeowners Insurance?

    Feb 17, 2021, 14:15 PM by Guylaine Cadorette
    Homeowners insurance isn't legally required, but you may still have to purchase a policy depending on the terms of your mortgage. Either way, you may want it, as home insurance protects your property and your finances when the worst happens to your house.
    Full story
  • Privacy vs Security: Is Getting a Smart Home Worth It?

    Dec 28, 2020, 17:03 PM by Guylaine Cadorette
    Smart home devices offer voice- and app-controlled features that make your home-life more convenient. While smart technology helps protect your home, it can also be associated with privacy and security issues.
    Full story
  • How to Prevent Vandals from Targeting Your Home

    Dec 28, 2020, 15:23 PM by Chantel Robillard
    If vandalism is a common problem in your area, deter criminals by installing exterior lighting and sturdy fencing. Consider befriending your neighbors, organizing a community watch group, or planting privacy bushes.
    Full story
  • Vacation and Second Home Insurance: What You Need to Know

    Dec 28, 2020, 14:27 PM by Guylaine Cadorette
    Second homes are generally more expensive to insure because they are considered riskier than primary homes. Homeowners should consider bundling insurance policies and updating their home security to help reduce their premiums.
    Full story
  • What Is Property and Casualty Insurance?

    Dec 28, 2020, 13:09 PM by Guylaine Cadorette
    Property and casualty insurance is a blanket term that covers homeowners, auto, condo, renters, landlords, and "toy" insurance. This type of insurance offers protection from liability as well as damage to personal property.
    Full story
  • Top Locations Overdue for Natural Disaster - A Survival Guide

    Dec 28, 2020, 11:43 AM by Guylaine Cadorette
    When areas are prone to natural disasters but haven’t experienced them in some time, scientists may label them as “overdue” for these events. An earthquake in Oregon and a hurricane in Sarasota, Fl are at the top of the list.
    Full story
  • 5 Easiest DIY Home Improvements to Add Value to a Home

    Dec 22, 2020, 13:36 PM by Chantel Robillard
    By investing some time and effort, you can complete inexpensive DIY projects that could increase the value of your home. Consider painting your walls, improving your landscaping, or deep cleaning your home to make it more attractive.
    Full story
  • Don't Ignore These 7 Noises on Your Property

    Dec 7, 2020, 17:22 PM by Guylaine Cadorette
    If you hear unfamiliar sounds like hissing, clanking, or scratches in the walls, it could be signs you need to make unscheduled repairs to your home.
    Full story
  • Tips to Lower Holiday Electrical Bills

    Oct 28, 2020, 12:06 PM by Chantel Robillard
    To help make your holiday season more joyful than stressful, we put together several tips to help lower your holiday electrical bills.
    Full story
  • Portable Generator Safety Tips

    Oct 14, 2020, 14:00 PM by Chantel Robillard
    If you own a home in Florida, having a generator is critical. Follow these portable generator safety tips to avoid any safety disasters.
    Full story
  • 8 Fall Home Maintenance Tips for Florida Homeowners

    Oct 7, 2020, 08:55 AM by Chantel Robillard
    Learn how to give your home a seasonal tune-up with these eight fall home maintenance tips for Florida homeowners.
    Full story
  • Why Is Florida Homeowners Insurance Going Up?

    Sep 25, 2020, 13:59 PM by Guylaine Cadorette
    Assignment of Benefits fraud, Hurricane Irma, and reinsurance claims have caused Florida homeowners insurance to go up. We look at the impact of these three factors.
    Full story
  • 5 Halloween Home Insurance Hazards and How to Avoid Them

    Sep 25, 2019, 17:16 PM by PTI Marketing
    Halloween home insurance hazards are scary. Here are 5 common household liability issues that can happen during Halloween—and how to avoid them.
    Full story
  • Notable Hurricanes That Hit Florida in the 2000s

    Aug 22, 2019, 16:51 PM by Guylaine Cadorette
    Did you know Florida is the most hurricane-prone state in the nation? Here are some of the top hurricanes to hit the Sunshine State in the 2000s.
    Full story
  • How to Stay Safe This Labor Day in Florida

    Jul 26, 2019, 16:24 PM by PTI Marketing
    Whether you are throwing a small gathering or hitting the road for the weekend, here are some tips on how to stay safe this Labor Day in Florida.
    Full story
  • When Is Peak Hurricane Season?

    Jul 15, 2019, 16:04 PM by PTI Marketing
    According to the National Weather Service, peak hurricane season runs August through October, meaning most hurricanes hit during this period. A whopping 96 percent of major hurricanes occur throughout this time. And of all the hurricanes that make U.S. landfall, 40 percent hit the state of Florida.
    Full story
  • Rainy Season in Florida Brings Flooding Hazards

    Jul 8, 2019, 15:07 PM by Brooke Gold Hasson
    Keep those umbrellas and raincoats close by because we are not even halfway through rainy season. Florida’s official rainy season runs from May 15th through October 15th, the state usually receives about 70% of its yearly rainfall during this time.
    Full story
  • 5 Best Places to Visit in Florida During Summer Vacation

    Jul 2, 2019, 16:00 PM by Brooke Gold Hasson
    As Florida homeowners, we all know the lure of Florida during the winter: mild weather, cool ocean breezes and a getaway spot from the snow. But for us, we’re here year-round and we know that summer can be just as great!
    Full story
  • Hazard vs. Homeowners Insurance: What's the Difference?

    by Guylaine Cadorette | Mar 09, 2021
    A tree topples on to a house and destroys part of the roof and structure.

    Is Hazard Insurance the Same as Homeowners Insurance?

    If you are applying for a mortgage or shopping around for homeowners insurance, you may encounter a variety of terms defining the types of insurance you can purchase and what is included in your policy. Hazard insurance is not a separate policy from homeowners insurance. Instead, it is a specific coverage included in most homeowner's insurance policies.

    Hazard insurance provides specific coverage related to the structure of the dwelling. Besides covering hazard insurance, most home insurance policies will provide additional coverage for other types of damages, such as casualty insurance and liability coverage if someone sustains an injury on the property. Typically, homeowners insurance will contain the following coverages:

    • Hazard coverage
    • Dwelling coverage
    • Additional structure coverage
    • Personal property coverage
    • Loss of use coverage
    • Personal liability coverage
    • Medical payments coverage

    What Is Hazard Insurance?

    Hazard insurance provides coverage specific to the structure of your home. When asking about the types of insurance you need, lenders will often specifically ask for a hazard insurance policy to ensure that if they issue you a loan at minimum, the structure on the property is covered. Because lenders often ask for hazard insurance specifically, the term's everyday use has become ambiguous with its true definition.

    What Does Hazard Insurance Cover?

    Hazard insurance policies provide coverage against potential risks such as fire, theft, and vandalism. In some cases, hazard insurance may cover natural disaster events such as wind, hail, lightning strikes, and wildfires. However, some events may not be covered. For example, if you live in Florida and have homeowners insurance, you may need to add additional policies for events such as flooding, which is typically not covered by hazard insurance.

    Hazard Insurance typically provides coverage in two distinct types; named perils and open perils. Named perils will be specific to your policy and ensure coverage. In contrast, open perils are perils covered that are not explicitly named in your policy. Named perils may include:

    • Home fires and fires caused by natural disasters
    • Smoke damage
    • Theft
    • Vandalism
    • Explosions
    • Wind and damage caused by wind storms, such as falling trees
    • Hail
    • Lightning and burn damage caused by lightning
    • Damage from vehicles
    • Damage from aircraft
    • Damage from riots or civil commotions
    • Damage from volcanic eruptions
    • Falling objects
    • Damage from freezing pipes or AC
    • Accidental damage from electrical currents
    • Damage from the weight of snow, ice, or sleet

    Open perils typically cover everything except the following:

    • Earth movements, such as damage from earthquakes
    • Ordinance of law and government action
    • Some types of water damage
    • Damages from power failures
    • Damages from neglect of the property
    • War
    • Theft during active construction
    • Intentional loss
    • Mold, fungus, or wet rot
    • Smog, rust, and corrosion
    • Discharge and seepage of pollutants
    • Birds, vermin, rodents, and insects
    • Damage to the property from animals that you own
    • Normal wear and tear of the dwelling

    It is vital to review your insurance policies to understand what your personal policy lists and provides coverage for. Every policy may be unique and may not cover the same types of damage as previous policies you may have had.

    Hazard Insurance Claim Reimbursement

    If damage occurs to the dwelling covered by hazard insurance, you will be required to first pay the amount defined by your deductible, and the insurer will cover the remaining amount. Your reimbursement will depend on the reimbursement provisions in your policy, typically boiling down to one of the two following:

    • Actual cash value. Actual cash value is typically the least expensive policy to purchase and often offers the smallest amount of reimbursement for damages. Actual cash value provides reimbursement for what your property was worth—including any wear or tear and depreciation at the time it was damaged or destroyed.
    • Replacement cost value. Replacement cost value typically comes at a higher expense but provides reimbursement for the property—regardless of depreciated value. This means that your coverage replaces the damaged or stolen property at its full cost for a brand new item—regardless of wear, tear, and depreciation.

    Is Hazard Insurance Required?

    Homeowners' policies and those that include hazard insurance are generally not a legal requirement. However, if you are applying for a mortgage or purchasing your home through a loan, your lender may require you to have a homeowners insurance policy that includes hazard insurance. This lender requirement ensures the lender that if something happens to the dwelling on the property, the asset is covered and financially protected. Some lenders may require you to pay a year's worth of premiums on the insurance policy in advance of signing a home loan.

    While obtaining homeowners insurance and subsequently hazard insurance may not be a legal requirement, it is best to get as much coverage as you can to ensure that your property and valuables are protected in the event of theft, vandalism, accidental damage, or damage caused by unforeseen events such as the weather.

    If you own a property that you wish to use as a second home, you may need to consider homeowners insurance for second homes and vacation properties that include hazard insurance or a landlord insurance policy. Choosing between these types of policies will depend on your personal situation and individual needs.

    How Much Is Hazard Insurance?

    The cost of a homeowners insurance policy that includes hazard insurance will depend upon a few factors that include:

    • The value of the property and dwelling
    • What is included in the policy
    • The policy limit
    • The deductible amount
    • If you choose reimbursement as actual cash value or replacement cost value

    Considerations for selecting your insurance will depend on your personal budget and how much you can afford, as well as the type of coverage you decide is necessary to keep your property, dwelling, and personal belongings covered for reimbursement.

    For example, you may choose to pay a smaller premium for an insurance policy that does not provide extensive coverage and only offers actual cash value. In the event of damage, your property may not be covered, or you may end up paying more to replace your damaged items.

    If you choose a policy with more extensive coverage that includes replacement costs, you may rest assured knowing that your assets are protected; and that you will receive full reimbursement to replace your damaged items or property.

  • Does Home Insurance Cover Theft? What Is & Isn't Covered

    by Chantel Robillard | Feb 17, 2021
    A thief dressed in black and holding a flashlight rummaging through a home I the dark.

    If you have homeowners insurance, your house and your belongings are covered to the extent of your specific policy, including instances of burglary and theft. Home insurance policies differ in coverage; some policies may only cover specific aspects of the home, structures on your property, and a certain amount of personal property. Additional insurance may be required for valuables and liability or casualty coverage. Your coverage may also only cover your primary property and valuables. Therefore, if you own a second home, you may need additional insurance for that residence and the property and valuables within it.

    You can only do so much to prevent vandals from targeting your home. Still, you can control your policy and coverage to ensure you can be compensated for damages and stolen items in the event of vandalism, theft, or burglary.

    Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Theft from a Car?

    Your personal property and home insurance policy may cover the theft of items from a car. Home insurance policies that include personal property coverage protects items that typically reside within your home — even if they are not in your home when they are stolen. Common items covered as personal property include furniture, clothing, electronics, and other personal items.

    For example:

    A thief breaks your car window and steals your laptop, your jacket, and the sound system in your car.

    • If you have comprehensive car insurance, your policy may cover the cost of the broken window.
    • The sound system of your car may be covered by comprehensive car insurance if it is originally from the manufacturer. If it is not original from the manufacturer, it may only be covered by additional car insurance coverage.
    • Your personal property homeowner's coverage would cover your jacket and laptop.

    However, it is important to note that your personal property coverage may have a reimbursement limit, may only provide the actual cash value for the item, or may include replacement cost coverage.

    Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Auto Theft?

    Your vehicle is considered a different object from your home and personal property in regards to insurance. Though items of personal property in your car may be covered under a homeowners insurance policy, the car itself will require its own insurance policy. If your car is stolen, you may receive reimbursement if you have comprehensive car insurance.

    Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Stolen Items?

    Every insurance policy will have its own limits and restrictions regarding what is and is not covered. This may include dwelling coverage, coverage for additional structures, and personal property coverage. A home insurance policy with personal property coverage will protect your personal possessions, clothing, and furnishings in most cases. Your home insurance may also cover any damages to your property that occurred from the break-in — broken windows or doors.

    However, items that are exceptionally valuable, including jewelry, fine art, expensive electronics, silver, or collectibles, may require additional and specific coverage policies. It is also important to note that personal property coverage usually provides reimbursement in two forms; actual cash value and replacement cost coverage.

    Actual cash value means you will be reimbursed for items at their current state of value. Replacement cost coverage will reimburse you for the cost it takes to replace the item.

    For example:

    A person breaks into your home and steals your 3-year-old gaming console. You may have bought the gaming console for $500, but due to depreciation, it is now only worth $200.

    • If your policy is for actual cash value, you would receive $200.
    • If your policy is for replacement cost coverage, you would receive the amount it takes to replace the item with a new item — the cost of a new gaming console.

    Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Cash Theft?

    A homeowner's insurance policy may include limited cash recovery, typically in the standard amount of $200 regardless of the amount stolen. Many insurance policies offer higher coverage through an endorsement for cash, coin collections, or other valuable items, but this will increase your monthly premium. There will most likely still be a cap on how much you can be reimbursed.

    Does Home Insurance Cover Theft Outside the Home?

    Just as your belongings are covered if they are stolen from your vehicle, your belongings may also be covered in the event of theft outside of the home. It is important to understand the off-premise coverage of your plan, as each plan may have unique coverage. Circumstances may also affect the amount that you will be reimbursed. This may include high-value items or whether your off-premise coverage has a cap.

    For example:

    • If you are working from a laptop in a café and your laptop is stolen, you may be able to receive reimbursement for the item. The reimbursement amount may be determined by the value of the item, what type of coverage you have, and if you have an off-premise coverage limit.

    Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Theft While Traveling?

    You may be worried about the safety of your home when you travel as well as the coverage of the items you bring with you. Your home insurance policy will not change the coverage you have because you are out of town. The belongings you bring with you may be covered under your homeowners insurance policy.

    For example:

    • A break-in occurs at your primary residence while you are on vacation. The coverage of your plan does not change because you are out of town.
    • Your luggage is stolen at the airport, or your items are stolen from a hotel room. Your homeowners insurance will likely cover your stolen belongings as your personal property to the extent of your policy.

    You should review your home insurance policy annually to ensure that all of your valuables and belongings are covered in your insurance plan for peace of mind while traveling. It is also generally good to check and update your policy annually to ensure your coverage is comprehensive and any new valuables you have acquired are covered.


  • Do You Have to Have Homeowners Insurance?

    by Guylaine Cadorette | Feb 17, 2021
    Picture of a white bench and bright pink flowers on the front porch of a bright blue house.

    You don't have to have homeowners insurance. With increasing monthly premiums, forgoing a home insurance policy may seem like a simple way to reduce the overall costs of homeownership. And if you're able to pay for your home upfront in cash or have completely paid off your mortgage, you can avoid purchasing homeowners insurance altogether.

    Though not required, you may still want to take the time to find the right home insurance policy for your needs. Your house is likely your most valuable asset, and homeowners insurance will help you protect it. Before you commit to going without it, here's what you need to know about the potential consequences of not having home insurance:

    Is It Illegal to Not Have Home Insurance?

    You can legally own a home without obtaining homeowners insurance. Unlike car insurance, which is a legal requirement in most states, there are no state or federal laws that require you to insure your home. That being said, you may still have to obtain home insurance--not because of the government but because of your mortgage lender.

    Your lender is, essentially, investing in your home with you, and they will want to protect their investment. When you're looking for a loan or refinancing your home, you may be asked to provide proof of homeowners insurance before getting approved for funds. Depending on where you live, your lender may ask you to purchase additional policies, such as flood insurance, as standard home insurance policies do not typically cover these events.

    According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, your mortgage lender is allowed to buy home insurance on your behalf and charge you for that cost. You may not like the policy they pick, though, as it could be more expensive or offer less coverage than what you would purchase yourself. This could easily drive up the cost of your monthly mortgage payments without giving your home the protection it needs.

    What Happens If You Don't Have Home Insurance?

    Not having home insurance is akin to gambling with your house. You're betting that nothing bad will happen to your property. Still, many things that can damage your house — like theft, vandalism, and natural disasters — are entirely out of your control. If you're incredibly lucky, nothing will happen. But if you aren't, you could face serious consequences, including:

    • Unable to make repairs: Natural disasters can cause significant damage to your home and property. You can do your best to prepare for some disasters, such as hurricanes, but others, like earthquakes and wildfires, can come swiftly and escalate with little warning. Homeowners insurance can help you pay for repairs, or in extreme instances, cover the cost of rebuilding or purchasing a new home. Without that protection, you could have to spend thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, to repair or rebuild your house.
    • Vulnerable to legal action: You can be held liable for any accidents that occur on your property. If a child gets hurt while playing in your yard, your dog bites someone, or a visitor slips on your slick walkway, the injured party could sue you. This leaves all of your assets, including your home, vulnerable. Most homeowners insurance policies offer some liability coverage to protect you should anything like this happen on your property.
    • Loss of valuables: Theft and burglary are the two most common property crimes in the United States. If a burglar breaks into your home, you may lose precious items that have either monetary or sentimental value. Depending on the extent of your home insurance coverage, you may be compensated for the loss of any expensive items. If the burglar damages your property during the break-in, your homeowners insurance may also cover the cost of any necessary repairs. Without home insurance, you have to pay for these expenses on your own.
    • Foreclosure: You could end up losing your home. If you haven't been paying your monthly insurance premiums or cancel your policy after getting approved for your loan, you may be asked to pay what you owe or buy a different policy. And if you can't or won't do either, then you've violated the terms of your loan. In this case, your lender has the legal right to put your loan in default or foreclose on your home.

    None of these events are guaranteed to happen. You may experience one of these events and come out of it relatively unscathed. If something does happen, you could end up having to deal with the financial fallout for years to come. It will likely end up costing you far more than a homeowners insurance policy would.

    Why You Need Home Insurance

    Even if you aren't legally required to obtain homeowners insurance, at the end of the day, you still need it if you want to adequately protect your most valuable asset.

    What's more, homeowners insurance offers protection to more than just your house, including:

    Protect Your Belongings

    Your home is more than just a house; it's where you keep your prized possessions and the things you need to live your daily life. If these items are stolen or damaged, it can be stressful and costly to replace them.

    Luckily, your personal belongings are also covered by your home insurance policy. You may not be able to get your items back, but at the very least, you will have the funds to replace them. Like your bike or laptop, some valuable items are still protected under your home insurance policy when they are stolen or damaged outside of your house.

    The extent of that coverage depends on your policy, but every little bit helps. Further, you may be able to get a discount on your contents coverage by installing security upgrades, such as cameras or an alarm system. As a bonus, these relatively simple upgrades may also increase the value of your home.

    Protect Yourself

    Home insurance protects you and other members of your household from potential litigation, as most policies have some amount of personal liability coverage. This coverage means that you are protected if you damage someone else's property, injure or harm someone, or are otherwise found to be legally responsible for an incident at your home. It may cover everything, but depending on your policy, it could help pay for medical bills, legal costs, repairs, or replacement items.

    Protect Your Peace of Mind

    Homeowners insurance can help protect your peace of mind. You can't avoid a natural disaster or prevent a robbery, but you can prepare to deal with these events if they do occur. By purchasing a comprehensive policy from a trusted insurance agency in your area, you will have the support and protection you need if the worst does happen. That peace of mind is well worth the cost of homeowners insurance.

    Ultimately, homeowners insurance may not be legally required, but it's probably something you'll want to have to safeguard your home, your finances, and your family.
  • Privacy vs Security: Is Getting a Smart Home Worth It?

    by Guylaine Cadorette | Dec 28, 2020
    A woman thinks about ways to use her smart speaker, which sits atop a wooden table

    The Internet of Things (IoT) and technologically advanced security systems are moving into homes around the world. IoT refers to the many devices connected by the internet, such as voice-enabled speakers, security cameras, and smart thermostats.

    Many homeowners are beginning to understand the benefits of opening their doors to IoT to take advantage of advanced home security and convenience. In 2019, 3.9 million doorbell cameras were sold in the U.S. and that number is expected to reach 5.6 million in 2023.

    If you're wondering whether a smart home is right for you, review the security benefits and privacy concerns discussed below.

    What Makes a Smart Home so Smart?

    When you install IoT devices, your home is considered a "smart home" since several features are automated and communicate with each other. Homeowners install these devices to enhance their home security, make it easier to control features in their home, and keep an eye on things while they're away.

    These upgrades may also increase your home's value. Some of the most popular devices installed in smart homes include the following:

    • Doorbell cameras: A doorbell camera connects to an app on your smartphone. When motion is detected, you can see what's happening at your front door directly through the app. In some cases, you can sound an alarm or speak to the person at your door right from your phone.
    • Smart thermostats: You can program a smart thermostat to automatically raise or lower the temperature at different times, saving you money on your utility bill. Download an app to your phone to adjust your thermostat and review temperature patterns in your home.
    • Water sensors: When you have water sensors installed and connected to your home's Wi-Fi, they'll shut off your water if a leak is detected. If you're not home when a pipe bursts, this technology can protect your home and save you from an expensive insurance claim.
    • Fire and smoke sensors: There are also smart fire and smoke sensors that connect directly to your home's Wi-Fi. If smoke or fire is detected, the system activates fire sprinklers and alerts the local fire department. This technology can keep your home safe if you're traveling, and a fire starts.

    What Are the Benefits of Getting Smart Home Devices?

    When you install smart home devices, you have the convenience of controlling certain features of your home from anywhere. Having access to front-door cameras or the thermostat when you're away from home gives you peace of mind.

    Convenience and Control

    With the latest smart home devices, you can control your thermostat settings from the palm of your hand. While you're away at work, keep your indoor temperature high in the summer and low in the winter to save money. Use your smartphone app to adjust the temperature before you head home from work. The perfect temperature will be waiting when you open the front door.

    With integrated smart home technology, you can sit on your couch, control your home's temperature, dictate which lights are on, and know who's at the door. This convenience and control are appealing to many homeowners who are excited to embrace technological advancements.

    Security and Protection

    Home security systems are a safety-savvy product that can help deter theft and protect your precious belongings. With a doorbell camera or other smart home security features, you can monitor your property, pets, and household members from anywhere.

    Leak detection devices and smoke or fire sensors are attractive to homeowners and homeowner's insurance companies alike. These devices catch floods or fires as soon as they happen, whether you're home or not, and take the proper steps to mitigate the situation.

    Return on Investment

    Smart home technology can be expensive, and it's tough to evaluate your return on investment. Obviously, if a device stops a burglar in their tracks or catches fire before it spreads, your ROI has likely already been realized.

    You may also increase your home's value and attractiveness to potential buyers when you install smart home technology. According to a survey released by Coldwell Banker in 2018, 77% of potential home buyers prefer a pre-installed smart thermostat while 75% want a smart fire detector already installed in the home they buy.

    Privacy Risks in the Connected Home

    Smart home technology is still relatively new, so the privacy risks associated with these devices aren't entirely familiar. However, there are some known and suspected risks that homeowners may want to consider before installing these devices.

    Collection of Personal Information

    With many smart home technology devices, such as voice-enabled speakers and security cameras, video and audio recordings are always on, observing and collecting data. Some experts suspect that internet companies use this data to learn more about consumer behavior.

    Smart home device owners may be sharing their internet searches, interests, and movements with these companies without even knowing it. Some technology giants, like Apple, are attempting to gain consumer trust by being transparent about the data they collect and placing limitations on collection practices.

    Wi-Fi and Internet Security Issues

    While you may protect your home Wi-Fi network with a password, it's sometimes not enough. According to experts, home Wi-Fi systems are easily hacked through routers. Once a hacker gets in, they have access and control of any information on your computers, TV, and other connected devices.

    When you add your smart home devices to your Wi-Fi network, they're also vulnerable to hacking. However, these devices carry much more extensive data, which potentially includes video and audio of you and your family at home.

    Ethics and Laws

    If you install a doorbell camera, you may feel better about increasing your home protection. However, you could open yourself up to blurred interpretations of ethics and laws. You may choose to register your camera with local law enforcement so they can gain access to footage whenever needed. If your camera isn't registered and it captures a crime in progress, law enforcement may request the footage anyway.

    Facial recognition technology is becoming increasingly popular in public places. Doorbell camera companies are looking into adding this facial recognition technology to their cameras to help law enforcement and other agencies identify civilians.

    Should Your Home Join the IoT?

    Whether you're interested in a discount on your home insurance policy, you're looking for peace of mind when you're away, or you simply think voice-activated light-dimming is neat, smart home technology is tempting.

    The smart home industry continues to grow, expand, and create even more advanced technologies for convenience and security. Before you decide whether your home should join the IoT, do your research, consider your feelings on privacy, and choose devices you know you'll use.

  • How to Prevent Vandals from Targeting Your Home

    by Chantel Robillard | Dec 28, 2020
    Person standing on  a doormat that reads “welcome” by the front door of a house

    As a property owner, vandalism is frustrating, can be expensive to fix, and can be difficult to prevent. Just as there are preventative measures you may take to prevent theft, there are also certain measures you can implement to help deter vandals from targeting your home. We’ve outlined some steps you can take to protect your home from vandals.

    Befriend Your Neighbor

    Don’t feel pressured to spend all your free time with your neighbors or become their best friend. However, when you establish a connection with residents who live around you, they’re more likely to watch out for your home and let you know if they see anything suspicious.

    Exchange names, phone numbers, and other basic information with your neighbors. If you feel comfortable after a few conversations, let your neighbors know when you’re heading out of town or share your work schedule so they’re aware of when you’ll be away from home. Your neighbors may be more inclined to keep a close watch on your property when they know you aren’t there.

    Make Sure Your Property Is Well Lit

    Studies have found that increased outdoor lighting in neighborhoods decreased the probability of index crimes (felony crimes) by 36 percent. With motion sensor lights or bright front porch lights, it’s easier for your neighbors to see if anyone suspicious is creeping around your property.

    Vandals usually don’t want to be identified and they certainly don’t want anyone to catch them in the act. To ensure your home is well-lit, consider lining all walkways with solar-powered lights. Install lighting at all entry points of the home, including your garage door and front door.

    They may approach from the back or sides of your home and they’re more likely to change their mind if these areas are also well-lit. Consider installing lights on the sides of the home and in the backyard for better visibility and to deter criminals from targeting your property.

    Put up a Fence

    Criminals usually want to complete their mission as quickly as possible to reduce their chances of getting caught. When a property is fully fenced, it is an extra obstacle in the process for vandals. They know they’ll need to climb the fence or open the gate to gain access to your home.

    Opting to install a fence around your property may make vandals cross your home off their list simply because it’ll be inconvenient. Before installing a fence, complete a survey to ensure you know where your property lines are.

    Check with your homeowners' association or county codes to make sure they allow fully-fenced properties. If you can install a fence, go with a high and solid fence, made of wood or PVC. Also, consider installing a lock on your fence’s gate. This is another deterrent for vandals and criminals since it adds more complications to accessing your home.

    Invest in a Security System

    A home security system is a safety-savvy item that ensures your home is protected from thieves and other criminals. Your homeowner’s insurance provider may offer better rates on policies for homes with security systems because they’re less likely to be vandalized or broken into.

    There are many options when it comes to home security systems. You could choose specific security options or a comprehensive system that includes:

    • Motion sensors
    • Cameras
    • Window sensors
    • Door sensors

    In most cases, the system will sound an alarm when a window or door is opened, deterring criminals from continuing their attempt to access your property. Depending on the security system you choose, it may also alert the security company or the local police when activated.

    Plant Privacy Bushes

    If you can’t install a fence, consider planting shrubbery or trees around your property to make it harder for criminals to gain access.

    Plant bushes that contribute to the beauty of your home’s exterior but choose foliage that truly increases your property’s privacy. Consider thick, thorny, or rough bushes or trees to make your property even less desirable to vandals.

    Clean up Vandalism in Surrounding Area

    If any of your neighbors’ homes have been the victim of vandalism, help them clean up immediately. When vandals see that homes in your surrounding area have been “easy targets,” they may continue to stay in the neighborhood and continue vandalizing other property. If you clean up the damage quickly, it sends a message that your neighborhood takes pride in its appearance and won’t tolerate that type of behavior.

    Report Vandalism ASAP

    If you notice vandalism on your property, report it to the local authorities as soon as possible. Once law enforcement is alerted, they’re more likely to patrol your neighborhood and catch the vandals before they strike again.

    Your home’s insurance policy may include coverage that will help you pay for repairs to your home after vandalism occurs. Contact your insurance company immediately after you find the damage. The sooner you report the claim, the sooner your insurance company can help you repair the damages.

    Create a Community Support Program or Group

    Banning together with your neighbors to create a community support program or group is also an effective way to dissuade vandals from targeting the homes in your area. When you join with other residents to watch over the neighborhood for suspicious behavior or clean up vandalism damage quickly, it’s likely to reduce the number of incidents in the neighborhood. Forming a community watch or support program may also:

    • Increase your home’s value and the value of other neighboring homes
    • Make you and your neighbors feel safer
    • Allow you to feel like you’re not alone
    • Give you a space to share observations and safety tips with other neighbors
    • Help you collectively decide on additional security measures to take that will benefit the neighborhood

    Dealing with property damage from a vandal is frustrating, expensive, and disappointing. By taking these preventative measures, you’ll protect your home from vandals while increasing your property value and building connections with your community.

  • Vacation and Second Home Insurance: What You Need to Know

    by Guylaine Cadorette | Dec 28, 2020
    Two Adirondack chairs on a wooden pier next to a canoe overlooking a lake and a summer cabin

    How to Insure Your Second Home

    Many people consider buying a second home for several reasons, including:

    • Vacation home
    • Rental property
    • Tax benefits
    • Long-term profits
    • Flexibility in where you live

    No matter what reason you choose to buy a second home, it's important to protect your large investments with insurance. Just like your primary home, you should obtain homeowners insurance with coverage appropriate to the location of your second dwelling. However, it is essential to understand that there are special considerations for your second home that you may not be aware of.

    Check Your Primary Homeowners Insurance Policy

    First, check your current homeowners insurance policy to see if it will cover a second home. Some policies may extend coverage, which could make insuring your second place a breeze. However, many insurance companies only cover one home because every home is unique and comes with its own coverage needs. For instance, your vacation home may be in a high-risk area for floods or earthquakes.

    Another example could be that your new property is in an area that is prone to vandalism or theft. No matter the reason, it's important to consult with a homeowners insurance company in your area to assess the needs of your second home.

    Insurance Considerations for Your Second Home

    Buying an insurance policy for your second home is a lot like buying a policy for your primary home. However, there are some risk factors associated with second homes that may change your insurance rate. Before purchasing a new insurance policy, you should determine the coverage needs for your second home. Many factors will play a significant role in the home's coverage, including:

    • How often the home is lived in
    • The location of the second home
    • The features included with the second home
    • Any natural hazards near the second home (such as a 100-year floodplain)

    How Often the Home Is Occupied

    Second homes may not be used or occupied as often as primary homes, especially if it's a vacation home. The home vacancy is considered a risk for insurance companies, which can increase your rates. There are a few reasons that home vacancy is considered a higher risk:

    • The home could be more prone to theft and vandalism
    • Second homes could have more hazards that go unnoticed
    • Accidents could occur that you would be liable for even if you weren't there

    For instance, if someone uses your pool and has an accident, you could be held liable for their medical bills and legal expenses, even though you weren't at your home.


    Homeowners insurance can vary by location. Insurance companies look at the region you live in, the type of neighborhood, and even the street you live on to determine how much you should pay in premiums. Factors that increase home insurance rates include:

    • Whether your primary insurance company provides coverage in that area
    • The local crime rate
    • The home value
    • The replacement costs

    While it's always a good idea to check with your primary insurance company first, it may not provide coverage outside the region where your first home is. Having to go with a different company may eliminate the possibility of bundling policies or enjoying other discounts.

    Many people use their second homes as vacation homes, which are often located in unique places like mountains or beaches. These environments may need specific coverage to protect against natural disasters like floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes.

    Home Amenities

    Some amenities can increase your insurance rates due to liability risks. If you are looking to outfit your second home with luxuries, there are a few things to consider:

    • Pools and hot tubs: These amenities can increase the replacement value of your home as well as increase your liability risk. The increased risk of accidents, like drowning, for example, can increase your premium.
    • Finished basements: Damage to a finished basement from flooding or burst pipes is more likely to result in a claim than an unfinished basement. These claims could raise your insurance premiums down the line.
    • Expensive items: Homeowners insurance can cover luxury items inside the home but only up to a certain amount. You may need to obtain additional insurance if you would like your possessions protected.
    • Wood-burning stove or fireplace: This amenity is more at risk of fires and smoke damage than gas stoves and fireplaces.

    Natural Hazard Risk

    Depending on where your second home is located, you may be at higher risk for sustaining damage due to a natural disaster. Typically, major disasters like earthquakes and floods are not covered under a standard homeowners policy, and you would have to purchase additional coverage to protect your second home. Depending on the area, you may need to inquire about add-ons to protect against:

    • Flood: This is usually indicated if your property sits within a 100-year flood zone and if it is near a major body of water like a lake or the ocean.
    • Hurricane: Hurricane paths can be unpredictable, but generally, your state or local government will either strongly encourage or require coverage for hurricanes if you are in a high-risk area.
    • Ground Movement: Most people are familiar with earthquakes, but this type of coverage also protects against damage due to sinkholes. Both types of disasters can be devastating to homeowners, and neither is typically included in standard policies. You'll want to investigate the area where your second home is located to learn about any fault lines or risk factors that may indicate sinkholes to determine if this coverage is necessary.
    • Hail: This is less a regional risk and has more to do with the age and condition of your roof. Hail damage can occur virtually anywhere, and roofs more than 10 years old may be more expensive to insure—or simply won't be included in a basic policy.

    Ultimately, the coverage add-ons you need will depend heavily on where you opt to purchase a second home, and the research you do into local risk factors and weather trends.

    Purchase a Second Home Insurance Policy

    Since second homes are typically deemed riskier than primary homes, the home insurance premium tends to be more expensive. Consider bundling your home insurance policy with another kind of insurance coverage to keep premiums as low as possible. Some companies will discount your insurance premiums if you choose to bundle. The most common bundling scenario is home and auto insurance; however, depending on your provider, you may be able to bundle more.

    Another option is to upgrade the security at the second home. This upgrade can help lower the risk of loss from burglary and accidents. Additionally, some insurance companies may give discounts to customers who install smart home security features since home security typically falls under protective device discounts.

    Protect Your Second Home

    To further protect your second home, there are additional steps you can take, including:

    • Obtaining additional coverage, including contents coverage which further protects your possessions in your home
    • Asking friends and neighbors to keep an eye on the house
    • Hiring a seasonal caretaker
    • Putting lamps on timers to turn on and off, creating the illusion that someone is home
    • Installing risk-prevention systems, like water leak sensors
    • Buying a home that is part of a homeowner's association

    A second home may be part of your financial goals. However, there is a lot to consider when it comes to protecting your investment. By understanding the insurance considerations and knowing how much coverage is needed, you can make more informed decisions on your insurance policy for your second home.

  • What Is Property and Casualty Insurance?

    by Guylaine Cadorette | Dec 28, 2020
    A homeowner signing a homeowners insurance policy

    What Is Property and Casualty Insurance and What Does It Cover?

    Property and casualty (P&C) insurance is a general term that describes various forms of insurance that can help protect you and your physical property. This includes the types of insurance that typically cover items like your car, home, and even businesses, as well as situations in which you are found responsible for an accident that causes injuries to another person or their belongings.

    While P&C insurance includes many specific types of insurance, it does not generally include health or life insurance. Health and life insurance only cover the insured individual, not any property damage they own or liability for damage to others. For instance, life insurance covers the expenses associated with death (funeral and burial, lost income support for dependents, etc.) while P&C insurance focuses on damage to/loss of property or someone determined to have caused a loss of/damage to property.

    What Does Property and Casualty Insurance Cover?

    P&C insurance primarily covers your physical property and liability for damages to people and their belongings. Coverage can vary significantly depending on the type of property or casualty insurance you obtain. There are three kinds of property insurance coverage to be aware of:

    • Replacement cost, which covers repairing or replacing property
    • Actual cash value, in which the owner is compensated for the current market value of the lost or damaged property, which may be less than the cost to fully replace the covered items
    • Extended replacement cost, which pays the recipient more than the coverage limit; for instance, if construction costs have risen and repairing or rebuilding a piece of real estate would cost more than the original price paid for the building.

    Property insurance typically covers the following scenarios:

    • Damage caused by fire, smoke, wind, hail, snow, and lightning
    • Vandalism
    • Theft

    Casualty insurance generally deals with liability. As stated above, liability coverage can help cover losses resulting from the insurer's interactions with another person and their property. For instance, if you were to back out of a parking space, hit another parked car, and inflicted damage to that property, liability insurance can help cover the out-of-pocket expenses. Other examples include:

    • A customer slips and falls at your place of business
    • You are found at fault in a car accident that resulted in injuries to another person or their vehicle
    • Your business sold an item that was found to have caused a personal injury to the customer who purchased it

    To be held legally responsible, you must be found guilty of negligence, which means you would have failed to use proper care in your actions.

    Types of Property and Casualty Insurance

    There are many types of P&C insurance—some you may already be familiar with.

    Car Insurance

    Car or auto insurance is an agreement between you and an insurance company that can help protect you if you are in an auto accident or your car is stolen. By paying a premium, the insurance company agrees to pay for the losses that are outlined in your policy. Car insurance policies typically cover:

    • Property damage
    • Liability for others
    • Medical expenses

    Many car buyers are familiar with car insurance, as it is required by most states. Most policies are customizable, and allow you to add the coverage you think you need. Additionally, you can cover other people that drive your car often, like a friend or family member. It's important to note that car insurance only covers personal driving—if you are using your car for commercial purposes, you will have to obtain another insurance policy.

    Condo Insurance

    If you own a condo, you may find it prudent to obtain condo insurance. This type of insurance typically coincides with the policy carried by your condo association. All condominium developments have associations that provide insurance policies for the common areas, like the lobbies, pools, common hallways, and sidewalks. The association's policy may also cover your condo's structure. However, a personal condo insurance policy also offers:

    • Personal liability
    • Medical for guests
    • Building property protection
    • Personal property coverage

    Keep in mind that the association's insurance policy may affect your policy. Owners should research what the association's policy covers before obtaining one of their own.

    Home Insurance

    Homeowners insurance helps protect your home from damage, theft, or vandalism. The standard policy covers the structure of the house and all the belongings inside. This type of insurance will also come with liability coverage, so if anyone is hurt at your home, you have insurance to help pay their medical expenses. While there are many options for homeowners insurance, homeowners insurance covers the following:

    • Damage caused by natural disasters, including fire, hurricanes, hail, and lightning
    • Water damage
    • Detached structures like garages and tool sheds
    • Personal belongings, like furniture, clothes, electronics, and equipment
    • Damage caused by pets
    • Additional living expenses for time away from home due to damage
    • Bodily injury to another person or damage to their property while in your home

    One common misconception about homeowners insurance is that it covers all natural disasters. This is not true. Homeowners insurance will not cover damage caused by earthquakes or floods. For many insurance companies, flood damage is considered a gradual event rather than accidental.

    You often must purchase a separate flood policy for protection in the event of a natural disaster that causes flood damage. Regarding coverage for damages caused by earthquakes, insurance companies simply don't include it in their policies.

    Again, this type of coverage is typically available as an add-on to your policy. You should research home insurance policies in your area to ensure you are getting the correct coverage. It's important to note that these types of insurances are only required in high-risk areas.

    Landlord Insurance

    If you own a rental property that generates income, then you will benefit from landlord insurance. This type of insurance is offered to protect the landlord from any damage that happens to their property. It can also help landlords if they are liable for any injury their tenants sustain while staying in their rental.

    Landlord insurance generally covers:

    • The rented home, apartment, or condo
    • Detached garages, sheds, or fences that are on your property
    • Personal property you use to service the rental
    • Medical bills from injuries sustained by the tenant on your property
    • Legal expenses if a tenant decides to sue due to the sustained injuries

    Landlords can also expand their policy to cover the following:

    • Vandalism
    • Burglary
    • Rental property that is under construction
    • Updated building codes

    Maintenance issues are not covered under landlord insurance and are typically paid out-of-pocket by the landlord or tenant. Additionally, tenant belongings are not covered. If your tenants want coverage for their belongings, they should invest in renters insurance.

    Renters Insurance

    Renters insurance was designed to protect the tenant's belongings in a rental property. Nowadays, many landlords require renters insurance because they can avoid liability claims, relocation expenses, and damages caused by pets. Renters can benefit significantly from this type of insurance because it covers:

    • Personal property damages and theft
    • Liability in case someone is injured in your home
    • Additional living expenses if the property is unlivable

    Another benefit of renters insurance is that it is customizable. Renters can adjust their policy to ensure it covers the expense of their belongings. That is why it's important to take inventory of all personal belongings before signing up for renters' insurance.

    "Toys" Insurance

    "Toys" refers to assets like boats, recreational vehicles (RVs), motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), snowmobiles, golf carts, and valuable and luxury collections. These assets can be expensive, and many owners can benefit from this insurance if their belongings are damaged or stolen. Toy insurance generally covers:

    • Burglary
    • Fire
    • Flood
    • Loss
    • Natural disasters
    • Theft
    • Liability
    • Collision
    • Vandalism
    • Uninsured drivers

    People who operate these types of assets can cause accidents and damage to other people's property. Toy insurance can help pay for medical bills and repairs, similar to auto insurance.

    How Much Is Property and Casualty Insurance?

    The cost of P&C insurance can vary greatly. Insurance companies determine your premium based on the insurance policy you obtain. Four factors determine the premium:

    1. The type of coverage: Generally, the more coverage you get, the more you pay in your premium.
    2. Amount of coverage: Like the factor above, your premium will be higher if you choose a higher coverage amount.
    3. Personal information: Your life factors, including where you live and your insurance history, is used by the insurance company to determine your premium.
    4. Insurance company competition: Some insurance companies may offer lower rates, either temporarily or permanently, to compete with other companies.

    Keeping these factors in mind is essential when shopping for insurance policies and can help you determine the best rates for your lifestyle.

    Properly insuring your assets is a necessity and shouldn't be avoided. It's best to contact insurance experts or reputable insurance companies to go over your specific needs.

  • Top Locations Overdue for Natural Disaster - A Survival Guide

    by Guylaine Cadorette | Dec 28, 2020
    A wooden sign in a California desert reads San Andreas Fault

    When an area hasn’t experienced a natural disaster in a while, it’s sometimes referred to as being “overdue” for a major event. However, this term is sometimes overused or misused when it comes to natural disasters related to geological or climate events. Being “overdue” for a natural disaster may not be the only factor to warrant an area’s likelihood of experiencing that event, though it often has at least some scientific basis.

    For example, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) maps areas with a high risk of flooding based on the 100-year flood plain. In these areas, there’s a 1 percent chance there will be a flood each and every year so the agency coined the phrase “100-year flood plain.” To predict the risk of flooding, FEMA basically uses the “overdue” theory that floods are likely at least once every 100 years.

    While being overdue for a disaster isn’t the only factor to consider when attempting to predict the next event or make major life decisions, it can be an interesting and potentially helpful consideration if you live in an area that fits the description. The following U.S. locations may be considered “overdue” for a natural disaster.

    The Cascadia Subduction Zone (Earthquake)

    The Cascadia Subduction Zone is a large fault line that runs from northern California to British Columbia and covers about 600 miles. The last earthquake this area experienced was a 9.0 magnitude quake on January 26, 1700, so it’s no wonder scientists are considering this area overdue.

    If the area does experience another massive earthquake, Oregon could be affected and a tsunami may also result once the earth stops shaking. Scientists are concerned that since the last earthquake was in 1700, the earth has been building pressure up in this area since then.

    Experts at the Oregon Office of Emergency Management believe, “there is about a 37 percent chance that a megathrust earthquake of 7.1+ magnitude in this fault zone will occur in the next 50 years.” The entire pacific northwest area, including northern California, the entire coastline of Oregon and Washington, and major cities including Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver, could be impacted by this event, and residents might see severe property damage or lose power and services for multiple weeks.

    What Can Be Done?

    There’s not much that can be done to avoid an earthquake. However, residents in the area should prepare for the event by gathering at least two weeks of food and supplies. The Oregon state government suggests that residents near major fault lines collect food, supplies, and medications in an easily accessible kit in case they need to evacuate.

    The San Andreas and Hayward Faults (Earthquake)

    The Hayward and San Andreas Faults are located near California’s East Bay. These faults run from Cape Mendocino to the Gulf of California. The last major earthquake in the area occurred on October 21, 1868, and was clocked at a magnitude of 6.8.

    Scientists are concerned about this area potentially being overdue for an earthquake because they’ve studied the patterns within the state. The last five major earthquakes in California occurred around every 140 years. Therefore, scientists at Berkeley predict that “the Hayward fault will rupture and produce a significant earthquake within the next 30 years.”

    If a major earthquake occurs in the San Andreas and Hayward Faults, over 2.4 million residents may be affected in the following cities:

    • San Jose
    • Fremont
    • Hayward
    • San Leandro
    • Oakland
    • Berkeley
    • El Cerrito
    • Richmond

    A major earthquake in this area could cause extreme structural damage to bridges and buildings and could also cause landslides.

    What Can Be Done?

    Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent earthquakes. However, residents can prepare by ensuring they have the right hazard insurance in place to protect their property. Families should create and practice an emergency plan so they know how to react and evacuate in the event of an earthquake.

    Large furniture or other hazards that could cause injury if toppled over should be secured to the wall. Residents should also look into the structural integrity of their homes to ensure they have the proper retrofitting to withstand an earthquake.

    Florida’s Gulf Coast (Hurricane)

    Florida is a peninsula surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, making it a prime target for hurricanes. Florida homeowner’s insurance is an important precaution for all residents in the state. The state is also known for its low elevation so flooding is common and damage from hurricanes may be even more severe than in higher-elevation states further north.

    In the city of Sarasota on the Gulf coast, the maximum elevation is only 145 feet above sea level. However, the city is often spared from hurricanes. Only five named hurricanes have come close to the downtown area of Sarasota, and none has made a direct impact in nearly a century.

    There is much folklore about why Sarasota remains safe from this natural disaster. Some assert that Sarasota hasn't experienced a direct hit from a hurricane for a long time because the area is protected by Native American spirits. Despite local folklore, property insurance for Sarasota homeowners is still standard for residents.

    A more scientific explanation for Sarasota’s safety may be that hurricanes must travel directly over Cuba to hit the city. This isn’t probable because Cuba is known to disrupt “the moist low-level inflow” of hurricanes, knocking them off track. However, all of Florida is at risk for hurricanes, so it’s important for residents to be prepared.

    What Can Be Done?

    Florida’s hurricane season is from June 1 to November 30 but residents should be prepared well before it begins. Choose insurance coverage with a reputable homeowner’s insurance company. Equipping homes for strong winds with hurricane shutters can help minimize damage and may improve your home’s durability.

    All Florida residents should review their area’s hurricane warning systems, evacuation routes, and local shelters. Getting a solid disaster emergency plan in place ensures you’re prepared to stay safe.

    The Yellowstone Supervolcano (Volcanic Eruption, Earthquake)

    The Yellowstone Caldera is a 35 mile by 50 mile volcanic crater that was formed 640,000 years ago. In the past 2.1 million years, three large volcanic eruptions were produced near Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. The last volcanic activity in the region were lava flows that occurred 700,000 years ago, leading scientists to wonder if Yellowstone is overdue for a giant volcanic eruption.

    If a supervolcanic eruption were to occur, the entire country could experience falling ash. Surrounding states, including Montana and Idaho, could deal with volcanic gases, ash, and hot lava.

    What Can Be Done?

    Fortunately, the chances of a catastrophic volcanic eruption are slim over the next few thousands of years. However, residents in the area should be prepared with an evacuation plan. They should also be familiar with local authorities and their preferred lines of communication during natural disasters.

    The New Madrid Seismic Zone (Earthquake)

    The New Madrid Seismic Zone is located in the Southern and Midwestern U.S. and is most famous for earthquakes in 1811 to 1812 with magnitudes between 7.0 and 8.0. The earthquakes were so strong that their effects were felt all the way up to Connecticut and South Carolina. However, most of the damage occurred along the Mississippi River.

    If this catastrophic event were to happen again, it could cause structural damage to buildings and may reshape the land. Landslides may also occur.

    What Can Be Done?

    Scientists conclude that strong earthquakes in the area have a “recurrence interval of about 500 years.” However, residents within the New Madrid Seismic Zone should be prepared by understanding how local warning systems work, packing an emergency kit, and ensuring their homes are structurally sound.

    Natural disasters are unpredictable but these areas may be “overdue” for one of these events. Even if these locations have been safe for years, residents should still be prepared for emergency events that could happen in their communities at any time.

  • 5 Easiest DIY Home Improvements to Add Value to a Home

    by Chantel Robillard | Dec 22, 2020
    Person planting yellow flowers in a window planter box

    Whether you’re about to put your home on the market or you have no plans of selling anytime soon, there are many DIY projects that can add value to your home. Not every home project needs to be costly or complicated to make a big impact, both for livability and eventually for resale. Learn more about simple and cost-effective projects you can take on yourself that will improve your home, increase its value, and make you proud of the work you put in.

    Update Your Landscape

    If you’ve been neglecting your yard or you’ve opted for a simple landscaping design, freshening it up with some new trees and shrubs may be just what your home needs. When you plant attractive trees and shrubs, you can increase your home’s curb appeal. Not only will it look great in your listing photos, but your new landscaping could also increase the value of your home and neighborhood.

    Consider shrubs and landscaping that don’t require a lot of upkeep. This keeps your home maintenance efforts more manageable and may also keep your watering costs low. Homebuyers may be more attracted to low-maintenance elements that still increase curb appeal, such as mulch, rocks, or native plants.

    To complete this DIY task, you’ll need gardening tools, plants, and other landscaping accessories. Depending on the plants and accents you choose, you may spend $100 to $200 updating your landscaping. Homes with attractive landscaping may sell for 5.5% to 12.7% more than homes without appealing front yards.

    Update Walls and Ceilings

    Ceilings that have a bumpy texture are referred to as popcorn ceilings. This construction technique was popular in the 1960s to dampen sound and add style to a room. While it’s considered vintage, popcorn ceilings aren’t usually desirable in modern aesthetics and may decrease the value of your home.

    Removing popcorn ceilings is time-consuming but a simple task you can complete yourself. However, before you attack the bumpy ceiling with a scraper, have it tested for asbestos. It was used in the same timeframe that popcorn ceilings were popular so it’s possible this hazardous construction material is present in your home’s ceilings. If there is asbestos, have a professional remove it carefully for you.

    If you’re safe to tackle this project on your own, protect your floors and furniture with drop cloths, wet the ceiling, and begin scraping. Eventually, the smooth surface of your ceiling will be revealed. You’ll need to prime and paint the ceiling if there’s discoloration.

    This project could increase your home’s value by $2,500 to $35,000, depending on its size. If you don’t need to hire a professional, the supplies to complete this project, including scrapers and paint, should cost less than $100.

    The design and paint on your walls are also important for the overall value of your home. Outdated wallpaper or bright, glaring colors can turn potential buyers off. Consider upgrading your walls by adding a coat of neutral or modern-colored paint.

    Deep Clean Your Home

    While cleaning your home from floor to ceiling isn’t necessarily a renovation, it can still improve its value and attractiveness to buyers. You may clean your home religiously once a week, but adding a deep clean every once in a while can improve your curb appeal and leave a lasting first impression on visitors.

    When you opt to deep clean your home, take a few extra hours to focus on areas that are often ignored in your routine cleaning schedule, such as:

    • Baseboards
    • Walls
    • Cabinets
    • Appliances
    • Curtains and window treatments

    If you have children, deep clean their play areas, toys, and accessories. Dogs, cats, and other pets make it tough to keep your home spotless. If you’re a pet owner, take extra care to remove hair from corners and crevices when deep cleaning.

    All you need for this project are household cleaners and accessories, time, and elbow grease. It shouldn’t cost much but may make your home more appealing to buyers, potentially increasing how much you sell it for.

    Add Lighting

    If you’re experienced with home renovations, consider tackling an advanced lighting project, such as adding windows or a skylight to a relatively dark room. Hiring a professional to help install windows may cost between $3,000 and $9,000, depending on the project.

    Bright and airy homes are often more attractive, so adding light may increase your home’s appeal and resale value. If windows or skylights aren’t an option, add track lighting or install new, brighter light fixtures. Stick to neutral, modern, and efficient lighting fixtures so you appeal to all types of buyers.

    Outdoor lighting makes your home more attractive at night and may also deter vandals from targeting your home . With lighting at all entryways in your home, buyers who view your home at night may be more impressed with the tour. Bright lighting could also increase the price a buyer is willing to pay for your home.

    Install Home Security

    A home security system is one factor insurance companies consider when calculating your rate. Home security systems deter theft and vandalism, so your homeowner’s insurance company may be willing to give you a lower rate if you have one installed.

    When choosing home security, you can opt for a comprehensive system that includes window and door sensors, motion sensors, and cameras. You may also choose certain home security features that appeal to you, such as motion-sensing lights or a doorbell camera.

    The cost of a monitored home security system may vary from $200 to $600 for installation and $20 to $50 for monthly service. When calculating the value of the installation of a security system, consider if you also qualify for a discount on your homeowners insurance. If a home security system can deter thieves and save you money on your home insurance policy, it may be worth the investment.

    Installing smart home technology for security may also make your home feel safer. While buyers may not be willing to pay more for a home with smart features, it may drum up more interest in your home if you have this technology installed.

    Inexpensive DIY upgrades are worth the time and effort if they can increase your home’s sales price or buyer interest in your property. If you opt for upgrades, keep in mind, you may need to increase your homeowner’s insurance to ensure you have adequate coverage. By investing a small amount of money, time, and sweat equity, you can improve your home in big ways.

  • Don't Ignore These 7 Noises on Your Property

    by Guylaine Cadorette | Dec 07, 2020
    Woman sitting on her laundry room floor and making a phone call while looking up at the ceiling

    Some noises in your home are harmless—like creaking floors and squeaking doors. However, there are sounds to be wary of if you've never heard them before. If left unchecked, the sounds we've listed below could lead to a possible disaster.

    Because potentially damaging noises on your property are hard to predict, it's important to invest in home insurance. Without coverage, the following sounds could lead to very costly expenses that will have to be paid out-of-pocket.

    1. Bubbling Sound in Pipes

    The bubbling noises in your pipes may be a result of excessive sediment produced by your water heater. If you hear these sounds, contact a professional right away.

    If left unattended, it could result in premature tank failure, damage to your hot water tank, or both. Problems with your water heater could lead to further issues requiring emergency repair, such as leaking or flooding due to the damaged tank.

    To prevent sediment build-up, make sure you tend to your water tank and flush it out every few months.

    2. Electrical Humming and Buzzing

    It isn't common to hear humming and buzzing sounds from electrical fixtures such as wiring, lighting, and appliances like refrigerators or dishwashers. If you hear these unfamiliar sounds, it could be a sign that there are various problems to report. For example, if sounds are coming from the:

    • Dishwasher: This could indicate that an object is stuck in the way of the washer's blades. If so, remove the item and restart the dishwasher. If the noise still occurs, consider calling a professional to come and repair the unit.
    • Dryer: Humming sounds coming from the dryer could mean something caught in the blower wheel. However, this can be difficult to diagnose. It is suggested you call an expert to take a look to help identify the source of the humming.
    • Electrical Outlet/Light Switch: It is difficult to diagnose the exact cause of a buzzing electrical outlet or light switch due to the wires being hidden behind walls. For instance, a wire could be loose, which can cause more significant damage like an electrical fire. It's crucial to call an electrician if you hear buzzing or humming from an outlet or switch to ensure the problem is fixed correctly.
    • Refrigerator: Rattling sounds from the ice maker can be expected, depending on the type of refrigerator. However, you should be worried if you hear sounds such as buzzing or clicking, which are possible indicators of damage, like a broken compressor, in need of repair.

    3. Hissing Noises

    If your home uses gas and you hear an unfamiliar hissing sound, you should gather everyone in your home, head outdoors, and address the situation immediately as this could be a sign of a gas leak. To address the problem, call your local gas company and inform them that you need immediate service.

    Gas leaks are dangerous because gas is flammable—if left unattended, a gas leak could result in a house fire. They're also unpredictable, which is why it is essential to be prepared. Discuss with a homeowner's insurance agent to see which insurance plan can help protect your home from unexpected dangers, like a fire caused by a gas leak.

    4. Knocking and Banging in the Pipes

    Clanking in pipes can be especially bothersome because they may echo throughout the home. If you hear sounds coming from your pipes, this could be a sign that your radiator isn't draining properly or the direction of water flow has changed suddenly (otherwise known as "hydraulic shock").

    If not repaired, the radiator could stop working entirely. To help ensure the radiator is draining properly, homeowners can put shims under it to help promote a steady drainage system. However, if they hear signs of hydraulic shock, this may require the assistance of a plumber.

    If you don't have a radiator but are still hearing banging in the pipes, you may need the help of an HVAC professional—for these could be signs of a failing boiler circulation pump.

    5. Running Water

    Sounds of running water are common when individuals in the household are using plumbing. However, you might start to worry when you hear running water, even when someone isn't using it. If so, then there may be a busted pipe, leaking faucet, or overflowing toilet somewhere in your home. Call a plumber immediately if you are unable to fix the source of the running water yourself.

    Without proper care, this could escalate into bigger problems like flooding and water damage. Unfortunately, flood insurance is generally intended for major flood events (coverage often doesn't kick in unless the flood covers at least two acres), so this is definitely something you will want to catch and address early to avoid out-of-pocket expenses down the road.

    6. Scratching in the Walls

    Scratching, scattering, and squeaks coming from within your home could be signs that critters like insects, raccoons, squirrels, mice, rats, and even birds, have made their way into your walls. While you may have always wanted a pet squirrel, having them in the walls isn't ideal. These unwelcome animals can cause damage by chewing through plaster and wires and leave feces everywhere, which can be harmful to respiratory health.

    You can handle the pest situation on your own by setting out traps, but if you feel the problem is beyond your area of expertise, call your local exterminator.

    7. Strange Furnace Noises

    Noises coming from a furnace can sound just like a scene from a horror film. While some of these sounds are normal, certain ones require attention. If you hear any strange whistling, popping, banging, or clanking, it could be signs that your furnace has various ailments like an unoiled motor, clogged gas line, or dirty filter. To help indicate whether these sounds are normal or require repair, call an HVAC professional to check on your furnace as soon as possible.

    Don't ignore suspicious sounds you've never heard before. If left unchecked, they could lead to bigger (and more expensive) problems down the road.

  • Tips to Lower Holiday Electrical Bills

    by Chantel Robillard | Oct 28, 2020

    Tips to Lower High Holiday Electrical Bills

    The holiday season fills the air with joy, merriness—and stress, mostly because of the extra money spent on travel, parties, gifts, and decorations. And with the holiday season kicking off earlier and earlier each year, so do higher electrical bills, which can skyrocket because of all the beautiful lights that adorn houses and trees during this time of year.

    To help make your holiday season less taxing, we put together some tips on how to lower your holiday electrical bills.

    Switch to LED Lights

    Switching out your old traditional Christmas lights out with newer LED lights can save you a surprising amount of money. LEDs consume 75 percent less power and last 25 times longer than incandescent lights. And LED lights have benefits beyond cost-efficiency. They are:

    • Safer - they are less likely to start a Christmas tree fire since they don’t have filaments that can heat up and burn out
    • Eco-friendly - they use little power
    • Durable - they are not made of glass and are less likely to shatter
    • Long-lasting - they last up to 10 times longer than traditional lights
    • Versatile – they come in many different sizes and styles so you can make your holiday display uniquely festive

    A shift to LED lights can save you money—and much more.

    Set Timers

    With all the work you put into installing your holiday lights, it may be tempting to leave them on all the time. But that can raise your bill by an outrageous amount.

    Leaving your tree lit throughout the night can add an additional $14 to your electrical bill. Ten strands of incandescent bulbs could increase your electrical bill by as much as $19. However, while 10 strands of LED lights would add about $2 to your bill, according to Romper.

    You can also save money by limiting your display to a few hours each evening. Set a timer up for every string of lights, and set them to turn off at a dedicated time instead of leaving them on all night.

    Say No to Inflatables

    Inflatable, air-blown, or injection-molded plastic decorations are everywhere during the holidays. But if you are thinking about purchasing inflatables, don’t. They are constantly using an unnecessary amount of electricity and costing you loads of money. Yes, they are fun, but is it worth the sky-high electricity bill?

    Here are the average costs per season per inflatable, according to Florida Power & Light.


    Average costs per season per inflatable ~ Florida Light & Power
    Hours Per DayWatts4.581224
    Inflatable globe200$2.70$4.80$7.20$14.40
    4’ Inflatable52$0.70$1.25$1.87$3.75
    6’ Inflatable60$0.81$1.44$2.16$4.32
    8’ Inflatable76$1.03$1.82$2.74$5.48
    12’ Inflatable85$1.15$2.04$3.06$6.38

    Have a Holiday Bake Day

    Designating one day to bake all your cookies, cakes, pies and other yummy treats can help you save time and money. You will limit your power usage for refrigerators, mixers, and ovens on one day instead of throughout the whole month. There are other ways you can cut energy when holiday baking, such as:

    • Cooking multiple batches at a time. (It takes the same amount of energy to heat a full oven as it does a nearly-empty one. Plus, opening the oven door wastes energy and lowers the temperature as much as 25°F.)
    • Using the right-sized pot on stove burners. (A 6" pot on an 8" burner wastes over 40 percent of the burner's heat.)
    • Choosing the right appliance to use. Smaller appliances are the best choice when choosing between an oven, toaster oven, and a microwave because it will use less energy.
    • Cleaning your stovetop often. Keep your stovetop clean to ensure you do not waste any energy.
    • This could become a new holiday tradition. Invite family, friends, or neighbors and make a fun event out of it.

    Bring out Those Countertop Appliances

    Not all of your holiday dishes have to be cooked in the oven for hours. Did you know microwaving smaller servings uses up to 80 percent less energy? Plus, some of the most energy-efficient cooking methods are the easiest. A pressure cooker or slow cooker can save a ton of energy. Rice and pressure cookers are energy-efficient alternatives to large energy-sucking appliances.

    Countertop appliances use far less energy than your oven. Now is the perfect time to dig out that slow cooker, toaster oven, little griller, or that air fryer you haven’t used in months.

    It’s so easy to spend a lot more money than intended around the holidays. Give yourself a bit of a break with these tips to help lower your electrical bill.

    Looking for more ways to save money during the holidays? Check out our 15 Under $15: DIY Holiday Decorations for some cute ideas on a budget.

  • Portable Generator Safety Tips

    by Chantel Robillard | Oct 14, 2020
    Yellow portable generator in residential yard

    If you own a home in Florida, having a generator is critical. That's because the top causes of power outages in the Sunshine State include severe weather events like thunderstorms and lightning, floods, and hurricanes.

    According to EATON's 2018 USA Blackout Annual Report, Florida left a collective 25.3 million customers without power between 2008 and 2017, with an average of around 51 to 100 outages per year. The average duration of a power outage in Florida, meanwhile, is 65.6 hours. That's a whole lot of time to be without electricity—especially during the brutally hot months of July and August.

    If you're looking for a backup power source that's more affordable than a standby generator, a portable generator is an excellent option. Generators run on gasoline, diesel, or propane and can power tools and appliances. They typically include two electrical outlets that connect to extension cords to carry the power indoors.

    While generators are easy to use, there are a few things to keep in mind from a safety standpoint. For example, generators produce carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless, tasteless, and deadly gas. They must be handled cautiously and kept outdoors at all times.

    To avoid any disasters, follow these portable generator safety tips:

    Install Detectors

    Before using your generator, install battery-operated carbon monoxide alarms throughout your home. Your CO alarm should be either a battery-operated or a plug-in CO detector with a battery backup, so they continue to work during a power outage. You can easily install CO detectors, ranging from $20-$50, on your own. We recommended placing them throughout your home, with one on each floor of your house and in a central location outside each sleeping area. For more information on the importance of carbon monoxide alarms, check out the National Fire Protection Association. If you already have CO detectors, make sure to check the batteries and replace them if necessary.


    Never run your generator inside or in an enclosed space. Since portable generators produce carbon monoxide, your generator's placement is crucial to you and your household's safety. Always place your generator at least 20 feet away from your home and make sure to direct the exhaust facing away from your home, garage, and neighboring homes. It shouldn't be placed outside of an open window, even if it's only open a crack. Exhaust fumes can flow directly into your home through the open window. The generator shouldn't be in any enclosed spaces such as a garage, shed, or vehicle—even if the doors are open. You also should be aware of your neighbor's home and how the placement may affect them.

    Protect Your Generator

    Avoid using your generator in rainy weather conditions. Generators pose electrical risks, especially in wet conditions, since water can get into the outlets. If the rain is light and you decide you want to use it, place your generator under a canopy-like structure open on all sides. And always make sure your hands are dry when handling your generator. You should turn your portable generator off during a downpour and not use it until the rain eases. Remember, generators produce powerful voltage and heavy rain could lead to electrocution or permanent damage to your generator.

    Store Gas Properly

    You should have gas on-hand for your generator before a hurricane hits in case the power goes out. Gas stations become overcrowded and low on supply before, during, and after hurricanes, so it's important to have enough gas to get you through a typical power outage. Most portable generators hold five gallons of gasoline. However, you want at least 25-30 gallons of gas on standby. Invest in a 25-30 gallon fuel tank to properly store your fuel in a secure location to keep it cool, fresh, and depressurized. Keep it somewhere separate from your home and away from any heat source, and out of direct sunlight. To ensure your fuel does not go bad after a couple of months, use a fuel stabilizer (a 10-ounce bottle of stabilizer will preserve 25 gallons of gasoline). Even with the fuel stabilizer, make sure to replace your fuel once a year.

    Wire Safety

    Since you will be using extension cords to connect power from your generator to your home, make sure not to use frayed or damaged extension cords. Scrutinize all wires to make sure they are fully intact and not damaged or cut. If cables are frayed or damaged, don't use them.

    Generators Get Hot

    Generators tend to get hot while running and often remain hot even after being turned off. Make sure children and pets stay away from your generator when in use.

    Don’t Use a Wall Outlet

    Do not plug your generator into a wall outlet, which could overload your wiring, overheat, and start a fire. It would also put utility workers and your neighbors served by the same utility transformer at risk.

    If you don't own a generator but are thinking of buying one, check out our post for tips on choosing the right generator —and follow our portable generator safety tips. Meanwhile, Consumer Reports can help you decide whether to get a portable or a standby generator.

  • 8 Fall Home Maintenance Tips for Florida Homeowners

    by Chantel Robillard | Oct 07, 2020
    Barefoot woman pressure cleaning a wood deck


    The United States has five major climate zones, so maintenance for a home in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, differs wildly from one in moist, sub-tropical Palm Beach, Florida. The Sunshine State also has to contend with hurricanes and annual average precipitation of about 54 inches.

    Muggy Florida summers make almost any outdoor work unbearable. Fall, however, is a perfect time to give your home a seasonal tune-up. To help you get your home ready, we've put together eight helpful fall home maintenance tips specifically for Florida homeowners.

    #1 Check Your Disaster Supply Kit

    When hurricane season ends on November 30, it's important to check your disaster supply kit and make sure you're ready for the next season—or any unexpected weather events. If you don't currently have a disaster supply kit, stop putting it off and make one! Since Florida is the most hurricane-prone state in the U.S., it's critical to be prepared at all times. Here are ten essential items to include in your disaster supply kit:

    • 2-week supply of medication
    • Flashlight
    • Battery-operated radio
    • Cash
    • First aid kit
    • Important documents (including your homeowners insurance info)
    • Nonperishable foods
    • Water (1 gallon per person)
    • Pet supplies
    • Solar-powered phone case

    Download your complete disaster supply kit checklist from Florida Division of Emergency Management.

    #2 Maintain Your Swimming Pool

    Florida pools are in use year-round, so it’s hard to find a perfect time for maintenance. If you have a pool, you should do a thorough inspection at least once a year—and fall is as good a time as any. Make sure to clean your pool thoroughly, including debris traps to prevent leaves or any rubbish from building up and clogging your pool’s filtration system. Inspect ladders, handrails, diving boards, and other pool equipment for loose parts or any deterioration.

    Keep in mind some pool issues are difficult to spot if you're not a professional. A certified expert can check your pool's plumbing and water pressure and identify leaks or drainage issues. They can also check motors, pumps and electrical parts like lights and wires.

    (If you have a pool, check out our 9 Essential Summer Pool Safety Tips for Florida Homeowners)

    #3 Care for Your Yard

    If you have trees or shrubs on your property, you should add trimming and pruning to your fall to-do list. After hurricane season, there could be broken branches in your trees, which is why fall is the perfect time to trim and prune them. You should remove any branches that could potentially damage your home. Pruning dead branches also helps your trees' overall health, making them more resistant to storm damage in the future. And now that rainy season is over make sure you are watering and fertilizing your grass.

    #4 Make Exterior Repairs

    Many Floridians mistakenly forget to inspect their house after hurricane season. The tiniest of storms can cause damage to your home. Take a walk around your property and inspect your roof, siding, and foundation. Look for any small gaps where critters could enter your home. The smallest crack can welcome a ton of un-wanted guests into your home.

    #5 Power Wash Windows and Siding

    Consider power washing your windows and siding to improve your home’s appearance. The fall provides more comfortable outdoor weather than the hot and humid months of July and August. When done appropriately, a good power wash can banish health hazards like mold and mildew. Power washing can also get rid of buildup and debris, giving your home a renewed look.

    #6 Paint Your House

    If you want to paint the exterior of your home, fall is a perfect time! It's best to paint the outside of your home when temperatures start to drop. Plus, there are fewer chances of rain, which can really mess up a paint job. And your house will look its best for the upcoming holiday season.

    #7 Check Your Alarms

    Now is a great time to check your carbon monoxide detectors and smoke alarms—and put in fresh batteries. If you do not own a carbon monoxide detector, you should strongly consider purchasing one—especially if you have oil or gas-burning appliances. Carbon monoxide is an invisible, odorless byproduct of burning oil or gas that can be deadly.

    #8 Clean Your Grill

    Now that temperatures are becoming more bearable, you'll probably be using your grill more often. Make sure it's in tip-top shape! A dirty grill not only makes your food taste bad, but it also creates a fire hazard. Remove all grease and fat build using a grill brush. Try and use a bristle-free brush because bristles can easily break free and land on the grill, creating a possible choking hazard.

    To prevent any other fire hazards, make sure your grill is in a location far away from your home or shed. You should also check your propane grill's gas tank hose for leaks before using it. Wash the hose with a light soap and water solution. If there is a leak, gas will escape from cracks and form new bubbles on the hose's surface. Smaller bubbles indicate a minor leak, while larger bubbles indicate a more significant leak. If this happens, turn your grill off and replace the hose.

    Weather-wise, fall is the perfect time to give your Florida home a checkup. Staying on top of the little things now can help you to avoid costly damages in the future. And if you follow these fall home maintenance tips, your home will be running more efficiently for the year.

    Need to get your home ready for the new season? Check out our Fall Home Maintenance Checklist!


  • Why Is Florida Homeowners Insurance Going Up?

    by Guylaine Cadorette | Sep 25, 2020
    Couple reviewing their renewal notice for homeowners insurance


    The perfect storm that has been brewing in Florida's property insurance marketplace has finally made landfall—and it's wreaking havoc on homeowners insurance rates.

    The three leading causes of premium spikes include Assignment of Benefits fraud, Hurricane Irma, and reinsurance claims. Let's look at the impact of these three factors to answer the question: why is Florida homeowners insurance going up?

    Cause No. 1: Assignment of Benefits Fraud

    What is an AOB?

    An Assignment of Benefits (AOB) is an agreement that transfers a homeowner's insurance claims rights to a third party. Signing an AOB form gives someone else the power to file claims, make repair decisions, and collect insurance payments on the homeowner's behalf.

    For example, if a home is damaged, a homeowner calls a repair contractor, like a roofer or plumber. The contractor then gets the homeowner to sign an AOB. That contractor is now free to file a claim on the homeowner's behalf and directly collect a check from the insurance company.

    Entering into an AOB agreement seems like a tempting offer since most homeowners prefer not to be involved in the claims process. However, handing over insurance claims rights to a contractor is hardly ever a good idea.

    How AOB scams work

    Many things can go wrong when a contractor works directly with an insurance company. Without the homeowner's oversight, they can easily overestimate the value of their work to pocket more money. When an insurance company recognizes an amount has been inflated and refuses to pay the padded bill, the contractor may hire a lawyer and sue the insurance company. And without realizing it, the homeowner becomes embroiled in a messy, pricy lawsuit.

    How does AOB fraud impact homeowners insurance?

    Both insurance companies and homeowners pay a steep price for AOB abuse. Insurance companies are forced to either pay inflated repair bills or sue contactors and pay for the cost of defense, whether they fight, or settle, that lawsuit. As a result, many carriers must petition for higher rates or stop issuing policies in Florida. Homeowners, on the other hand, get stuck with costly and substandard repairs, hefty lawyer's fees, and, consequently, higher insurance premiums.

    Every Florida homeowner with an insurance policy—even those who play by the rules—ends up paying the price for AOB abuse. That’s why it is crucial homeowners be able to spot home repair insurance scams.

    Cause No.2: Hurricane Irma

    The storm’s statewide devastation

    Downed trees and flooded streets following a storm

    Hurricane Irma struck Florida twice on September 10, 2017, first as a Category 4 at Cudjoe Key and then again as a Category 3 on Marco Island. The storm unleashed 130 mph winds, spawned 23 tornadoes, and produced heavy rain across the state. By the time Irma crossed the border into Georgia as a tropical storm on September 11, it had caused close to $50 billion in damages, making it the costliest hurricane in Florida's history.

    Irma’s impact on the insurance market

    While Hurricane Irma hit Florida in 2017, insurance companies saw claims from the storm steadily increase through 2019—two years after the storm's initial impact. That's because a statewide law gives Florida homeowners up to three years from the date a hurricane makes landfall to report a hurricane claim.

    Irma’s cost to homeowners today

    The high number of re-opened claims over three years, combined with AOBs, led to claims inflation and steady loss creep, which factored into this year's reinsurance renewals. As a result, Florida homeowners faced significant insurance rate hikes in 2020.

    According to Reinsurance News' directory of major insurance and reinsurance loss events, Hurricane Irma resulted in an overall economic loss of $67 billion, including a reinsurance industry loss of $32 billion. But what is reinsurance, and how does it factor into homeowners insurance cost?

    Cause No. 3: Reinsurance Claims

    What is reinsurance?

    Property damage on Florida street after a hurricane

    Dubbed "insurance for insurance companies" by the Reinsurance Association of America, reinsurance is a form of insurance purchased by carriers to lower their risk.

    The goal is to make sure no single insurance company is exposed to a significantly massive disaster—like a hurricane.

    Because in the insurance business, it's a matter of when (not if) disaster strikes. Reinsurance limits the amount of loss an insurance company can potentially suffer, which protects them from financial ruin and policyholders from uncovered losses.

    Why reinsurance matters to policyholders

    Reinsurance protects carriers from bearing the entire financial toll of a catastrophic event, like Hurricane Irma. And by transferring portions of their risks, insurance companies can make their premiums more affordable for homeowners. That's a good thing for policyholders.

    How reinsurance factors into homeowners insurance costs

    Between 2005 and 2016, not a single hurricane made landfall in Florida. But the tides changed after a slew of hurricanes, including Harvey, Irma and Maria, made landfall in 2017, costing close to $283 billion in damages and resulting in one of the costliest loss years on record for the insurance industry. Meanwhile, the estimated insured losses for 2018’s Hurricane Michael in Florida reached $7.4 billion, according to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation.

    For insurance carriers, the increase in the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events, such as major hurricanes, has drastically changed the cost of doing business in Florida. When factored into reinsurance renewals, the costs of the 2017-2018 hurricane season alone caused significant rate hikes for Florida homeowners in 2019 and 2020.

    What’s on the Horizon

    Homeowner signs Assignment of Benefits to transfer insurance claims rights to a contractor

    AOB fraud, Hurricane Irma, and reinsurance costs have all contributed to rising homeowner insurance rates for Floridians. However, there has been some reform, especially regarding AOB scams.

    In May 2019, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed House Bill 7065: Insurance Assignment Agreements, which addressed AOB abuse. The reform bill aimed to curb AOB fraud which has resulted in rising insurance costs for Floridians. (Download our quick guide on how to avoid falling victim to AOB fraud and abuse).

    "I thank the Florida Legislature for passing meaningful AOB reform, which has become a racket in recent years," DeSantis said. "This legislation will protect Florida consumers from predatory insurance practices."

    While reforms for Florida's AOB crisis helps address some of the costs, there will always be hurricane-related losses, especially since homeowners have three years from the date a hurricane makes landfall to file for loss or damages. And that means demands for rate increases from reinsurers aren't likely to drop anytime soon, forcing insurance companies to increase premiums for homeowners.

  • 5 Halloween Home Insurance Hazards and How to Avoid Them

    by PTI Marketing | Sep 25, 2019
    Updated September 25, 2020

    Lit jack-o'-lanterns lining the walkway of a house on suburban street

    When you think of Halloween, do endless bags of candy, fun frights and creative costumes come to mind? If you’re a homeowner, you should also consider all those spooky Halloween home insurance hazards lurking in the dark.

    Here are five common household liability issues that are likely to happen during Halloween—and how to avoid them.

    #1 “Trip” or Treat

    Decorating your home can be exciting, just don’t get too carried away. Carefully consider where to place your decorations to ensure trick-or-treaters have a clear path to your home. Make sure your walkway is clear and well-lit clear on Halloween night. Avoid low lighting and don’t overdo it with the smoke machine. If someone trips and falls over a decoration on your property, you may be liable for their injuries. Try to resist using low lighting, bright lights are best so people can see where they are going. So make sure to have a well-lit clear path on Halloween night!

    #2 Decoration Danger

    Jack-o’-lanterns are a popular Halloween tradition. Every year, this festive and creative practice also leads to home fires. If you are planning on lining your sidewalk or porch with lit up pumpkins, opt for little LED candles instead of real ones. Candlelit decorations can easily be knocked over and start a home fire. If you are using decorative lights to show off your Halloween spirit, make sure they aren’t a fire hazard. Check for broken or cracked sockets, frayed wires, or loose connections and discard any damaged lights. For more safety tips, check out these leading home fire hazards and what you can do to keep your family and home safe.

    #3 Scaredy Cats (and Dogs)

    Cats and dogs may get overwhelmed by the constant excitement of children ringing the doorbell, causing them to dart to the front door. Unfamiliar masks and costumes may trigger their protective instinct, resulting in them biting or attacking trick-or-treaters. To avoid this, keep your pets in a separate room away from all the Halloween excitement.

    Keep in mind Halloween treats like chocolate and some types of candy are extremely toxic to pets and may trigger a life-threatening allergic reaction if ingested. Remember to keep any trick-or-treat candy away from your pets. According to the ASPCA, chocolate in all forms can be very dangerous for cats and dogs, while sugar-free candies containing xylitol can also cause serious problems in pets.

    #4 Hallows Eve Pranks

    Whether it’s called Mischief Night, Devil’s Night or some other regional variation, the night before Halloween is prime time for pranksters to unleash their villainy. On this night, people cover homes in eggs and toilet paper, smash pumpkins and windows and even break into homes. To avoid this, keep your house well lit, cut back trees and shrubs, and report any suspicious or criminal activity to local authorities.

    #5 Your Homeowner’s Insurance Policy

    Now is the perfect time to look at your homeowner’s insurance policy, which we recommend reviewing once a year. With the changing of seasons and different guests arriving at your home, you want to give yourself and your visitor’s peace of mind this Halloween by making sure you’re covered in the event of an accident.

    With a little precaution, you can have a safe and fun Halloween. Don’t let these Halloween home insurance hazards ruin your celebration.

    Need to get your home ready for the fall season? Here are some more home maintenance ideas.

  • Notable Hurricanes That Hit Florida in the 2000s

    by Guylaine Cadorette | Aug 22, 2019
    Hurricane Charley image from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

    Updated on September 29, 2020

    Florida is the most hurricane-prone state in the nation. In fact, according to NOAA, 40 percent of all US hurricanes strike Florida. In the early 2000s, Florida homeowners dealt with devastating hurricanes that cost our state billions of dollars’ in damages. Floridians know all too well how dangerous and scary hurricanes can be, which is why being insured with a financially stable homeowner’s insurance company is essential.

    Here’s a look at the hurricanes that hit Florida in the 2000s:


    In 2004, Florida was struck with four separate hurricanes within a span of six weeks; Hurricane Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne. Nearly every square inch of Florida felt the impacts from at least one of the four hurricanes.

    • Hurricane Charley was the first to strike on August 13, 2004, as a category 4. The hurricane hit the southwest coast of Florida near Cayo Costa with winds up to 150 mph. Charley left Florida with over $16 billion in damage. The World Meteorological Organization retired the hurricane name due to the widespread devastation Charley caused.
    • Several weeks’ later Hurricane Frances hit near Sewall’s Point in Florida on September 5, 2004, as a category 3 with winds up to 145 mph.
    • Hurricane Ivan started to form over the tropical Atlantic Ocean the same day Hurricane Frances hit. On September 16, 2004, Ivan struck the Florida Panhandle as a category 3 producing waves up to 50 feet high offshore.
    • Lastly, on September 26, 2004, Hurricane Jeanne hit as the fourth hurricane of the season to make landfall in Florida. The hurricane struck Southeast Florida as a category 3 moving in almost the same location as Hurricane Frances.


    Three hurricanes hit Florida in the 2005 hurricane season.

    • Hurricane Dennis made landfall on the Florida Panhandle on July 10, 2005 as a category 3 with winds up to 120 mph.
    • Hurricane Katrina struck north of the Broward-Miami-Dade County on August 25, 2005. The hurricane landed as a category one however it still caused $630 million in damages. This hurricane caused flooding throughout the whole tri-county area.
    • Hurricane Wilma hit South Florida as a category 3 on October 24, 2005. The storm left more than 3.2 million Florida homes and businesses without power and stopped water service to many. The hurricane caused hospitals to evacuate, shattered mobile homes and caused extensive damage.


    After over a decade of calm, the 2016 season got delivered two hurricanes to Florida: Hermine and Matthew.

    • Hurricane Hermine was the first hurricane to make landfall in Florida since Hurricane Wilma in 2005. The hurricane struck as a category 1 on September 8, 2016.
    • Hurricane Matthew hit east of the Florida Peninsula on October 8, 2016, with category 2 force winds. The storm left Florida with $1.49 billion in damages.


    • Hurricane Irma struck as a category 4 on September 10th. The storm caused more than 6.8 million people to lose power and $50 billion in damages. The Florida Keys called for a mandatory evacuation before the hurricane hit.



    • Hurricane Sally ravaged the Florida Panhandle after making landfall as a Category 2 storm on September 16, 2020, bringing strong winds and catastrophic flooding to the region--even as it weakened to a tropical storm.


    Stay prepared in the event of a hurricane! Prepare now and download our FREE hurricane preparedness guide.

    Image by WikiImages from Pixabay 

  • How to Stay Safe This Labor Day in Florida

    by PTI Marketing | Jul 26, 2019
    People enjoying a backyard barbeque

    Labor Day is the perfect holiday to mark the end summer. Whether you are staying home, throwing a small gathering, or hitting the road for the weekend, you want to make sure you are celebrating safely.

    Here are some tips on how to stay safe this Labor Day in Florida:

    Grill Safely

    Most homeowners all across the state of Florida will be grilling on Labor Day. Although this is a great way to celebrate the day, grilling does come with some risks.

    How to grill safely: 

    • For your safety, do not use bristle grill scrapers. Bristles can easily break off of a scraper and land into food on the grill, leading to dangerous choking hazards. Switch to a bristle-free grill brush instead.
    • If you are having a lot of people over for Labor Day, you want to make sure your grill is positioned safely before guests start arriving. Place your grill at least 10 feet away from any buildings, overhangs or trees. Also, make sure it is on a stable flat surface.
    • Clean your grill before placing food on it.
    • Keep a fire extinguisher nearby at all times.
    • Never leave your grill unattended.

    Food Poisoning

    Speaking of grilling, you want to avoid food poising as much as possible. Making sure food is handled and cooked properly is extremely important. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), meat and produce are responsible for nearly 70 percent of foodborne illness cases.

    How to prevent food poisoning:

    • Thoroughly wash your hands before and after touching food, especially meat, to prevent cross-contamination. Thoroughly clean utensils, cutting boards, and cookware after they have come in contact with any food.
    • Marinate raw meats in the refrigerator, not on the counter. Never reuse marinade for cooked food after it was already used on raw meats.
    • • Use a food thermometer to verify that meat is cooked properly before you serve it. Not sure what temperature to cook your meat to? Refer to the FoodSafety.gov chart of safe minimum cooking temperatures .
    • Don’t leave food sitting out in the Florida sun all day. Put leftovers in the refrigerator within two hours of preparation, placing items in shallow containers to allow them to cool faster.


    Many Floridians sit poolside during Labor Day. But be careful – even if everyone in your family knows how to swim, drowning is still a serious hazard, especially among younger children.

    How to prevent drowning incidents:

    • Install a 4-foot-high, self-locking fence around the pool to prevent young children from entering the pool without adult supervision.
    • Designate a responsible adult to supervise children at all times as they swim or play in or near the pool.
    • Put away pool toys and rafts immediately after use to prevent young children from being tempted to play in the pool area unsupervised.
    • Stay away from pool drains, pipes and other openings that may cause entrapments. Be especially cautious with younger children.
    • Don’t drink alcohol before or during swimming, or while supervising children in the pool.


    According to the National Fire Protection Association, U.S. fire departments on average respond to more than 350,000 home structure fires ever year. If not properly managed, many common Labor Day activities can quickly ignite into a serious hazard to you and your home.

    How to prevent fires:

    • Never leave cooking food unattended, and keep flammable items, such as grill lighter fluid, potholders, wooden utensils, towels, napkins and cleaning supplies, away from the stoves and grills at all times.
    • Make sure responsible adults are aware of where the fire extinguisher is located in case of an emergency.
    • Leave fireworks to the pros; never attempt to light consumer fireworks at home.
    • Most importantly, be prepared in case of a fire. Make sure smoke alarms work properly before you begin your Labor Day weekend festivities and check that your household fire extinguisher is up to date.


    According to the U.S. Department of Justice , almost three-quarters of home invasions occur when a household member is not present. When you go out of town for extended periods of time, such as a quick Labor Day weekend trip, your home becomes particularly vulnerable to break-ins, especially if it’s easy for intruders to detect that no one is home.

    How to prevent burglaries:

    • Before leaving town, verify that all doors, windows and any other openings are locked and secured.
    • Install timers on your lamps to give the illusion that you’re home.
    • Ask a neighbor to park a car in your driveway, or leave one of your own cars out. Make sure the car is locked and store valuables, like GPS devices and portable video screens, inside your home.
    • Give a copy of your house key to a trusted neighbor or nearby friend in case of emergency.
    • Resist the urge to post your travel plans and activities on social media channels until you are back home.


    Labor Day weekend can be a dangerous weekend when it comes to being on the road. If you decide to travel for your long weekend, you want to make sure you are being as cautious as possible.

    How to prevent driving accidents:

    • Before pulling out of your driveway for the weekend, make sure your car is in good enough shape to get you to your destination.
    • Leave early enough just in case something goes wrong during your ride.
    • Always ensure everyone in the vehicle is buckled at all times.
    • Prepare alternate routes just in case of a road closure or an unexpected loss of signal on a GPS.
    • Make sure the driver has gotten plenty of sleep and is solely focused on driving.

  • When Is Peak Hurricane Season?

    by PTI Marketing | Jul 15, 2019

    Updated September 16, 2020.

    Map of Direct Hurricane Hits on US MainlandAccording to the National Weather Service, peak hurricane season runs August through October, meaning most hurricanes hit during this period. A whopping 96 percent of major hurricanes occur throughout this time. And of all the hurricanes that make U.S. landfall, 40 percent hit the state of Florida. That's why being prepared during this time is critical, especially for Floridians.

    In fact, Florida has been hit by more hurricanes than any other state. Since 1851, only 18 hurricane seasons have passed without a known storm impacting the state. To help get fully prepared, download our essential 2020 Hurricane Preparedness Guide to ensure you, your family, and your home stays as safe as possible.

    Ripe Conditions for Hurricanes

    Ocean water temperature and wind shear have the most significant impact on hurricanes. As summer stretches on, the combination of sunny days, warmer air temperatures, and more moisture in the air cause water temperatures to rise, increasing the chance of a hurricane forming.

    Wind shear, meanwhile, is the most critical factor in controlling hurricane formation. It hurts tropical cyclones by removing the heat and moisture they need to form. Wind shear also distorts a hurricane's shape by blowing the top away from the lower portion of the hurricane. Wind shear is strong at the beginning of hurricane season, but as the season goes on, it starts to weaken, reaching a minimum by mid-August. Without wind shear, the opportunity of a hurricane forming is enhanced dramatically.

    The combination of warm ocean waters and no wind shear creates ripe conditions for hurricanes.

    Know Your State

    Florida gets hit with more hurricanes than any other state. As you can see in the picture below, over 100 hurricanes have hit Florida since 1851, almost double the major storms that hit Texas, the runner-up. There is no question that living in the Sunshine State is risky during hurricane season, so Floridians need to be protected with the right homeowner’s insurance.

    Past Hurricanes in Florida

    Hurricanes can cost billions in damages. Hurricane Michael caused an estimated $35.1 billion in damages when it struck Florida in 2018. Hurricane Irma, which hit the state in 2017, caused $50 billion in damages and is the costliest hurricane to strike Florida to date. It is also the fifth costliest in the country. The 21st century ushered in some pretty destructive hurricanes. In 2004, four major hurricanes hit Florida; Hurricanes Charley (August 13), Frances (September 5), Ivan (September 16), and Jeanne (September 25).

    The following year, 2005, saw three major hurricanes:

    • Hurricane Katrina (August 25, 2005)
    • Hurricane Rita (September 24, 2005)
    • Hurricane Wilma (October 24, 2005)

    Then, after over a decade of little hurricane activity, three big hurricanes hit in 2017—Harvey (August 25), Irma (August 30), and Maria (September 16).

    Each hurricane mentioned landed during the peak of hurricane season.

    Always Be Prepared

    Even though it is more probable a hurricane will form during the peak of hurricane season, it is not guaranteed; a storm could strike at any time. Hurricanes and tropical storms also have the potential to produce heavy rainfall, which can lead to flooding. And many homeowners don't realize their policies don't even cover flooding—until it’s too late. We answer some of the most common flood insurance questions here.

    How to Get Prepared

    Keeping your home safe is critical in case the inevitable happens. Use our 2020 Hurricane Preparedness Guide to help make preparations easier. It offers valuable tips and recommendations and essential checklists and forms to help you prepare for peak hurricane season. It includes an emergency kit checklist, critical documents to print, and tips on how to ride out a storm at home instead of evacuating.

  • Rainy Season in Florida Brings Flooding Hazards

    by Brooke Gold Hasson | Jul 08, 2019

    Keep those umbrellas and raincoats close by because we are not even halfway through rainy season. Florida’s official rainy season runs from May 15th through October 15th, the state usually receives about 70% of its yearly rainfall during this time. Being a homeowner in the state that has the title of being the largest coastal flooding threat in the country, you should strongly consider purchasing flood insurance.

    Don’t delay, call People’s Trust at 800-500-1818 for a flood policy, they take 30 days to be in effect!

    2019 Rainy Season Predictions

    The Farmer’s Almanac, a dependable long-range weather forecast, predicts higher than normal amounts of rainfall and slightly cooler temperatures throughout this rainy season. Temperatures will be just a few degrees below the normal summer averages. If you look at the chart below you can see the predicted rainfall and temperatures for Florida from November 2018 to October 2019.


    Rain Brings Floods

    Although rain can feel relieving once it breaks up the hot summer temperatures, too much rainfall can lead to flooding. Floods are the most common natural disaster in the country. Just 1 inch of rain entered into your home can cause up to $25,000 of damage. If the unfortunate were to happen, paying water damage fees out of pocket would be quite difficult.

    Know Where You Live

    Florida is considered a peninsula and contains more than 7,500 lakes and about 12,000 miles of rivers and streams that stretch throughout the state. With that being said, mostly all households are within a short distance from some kind of water. This cause’s a risk of flood anywhere in the state, anywhere it rains there is a potential flooding hazard. Since nowhere is free of floods, you want to ensure that your home is protected by the best flood insurance that Florida has to offer. Use FEMA’s map service center to see if you live in a high-risk flood zone or not. Even if your house is not located in a high-risk flood zone you should still purchase flood insurance, 25% of the overall amount of flood claims come from moderate and low-risk flood areas.

    Keep In Mind

    Homeowner’s insurance does not typically cover flood damage. Homeowners insurance only provides coverage to floods when there has been damage to your home from a hurricane or tropical storm and water leaked in. Flooding from heavy rain or overflowing from a nearby creek or river, is only covered by flood insurance. Another thing you want to keep in mind is that flood insurance takes 30 days for your policy to be put into effect. Don’t wait until the last minute to purchase flood insurance!

    Protect Your Home

    Most of Florida is at or near sea level causing flooding to be a common problem. The damage from these floods can be critical leading to paying costly unexpected payments out of your own pocket. Flood insurance is far less expensive than paying these unavoidable damages. Having a flood insurance policy is the best way to be prepared in the case of a flood.


    Don’t Delay! Call People’s Trust Today and Get a FREE no-obligation Flood Insurance Quote: 800-500-1818

  • 5 Best Places to Visit in Florida During Summer Vacation

    by Brooke Gold Hasson | Jul 02, 2019

    As Florida homeowners, we all know the lure of Florida during the winter: mild weather, cool ocean breezes and a getaway spot from the snow. But for us, we’re here year-round and we know that summer can be just as great! It may be hot but we can’t let that stop us from exploring and enjoying the great outdoors! Keeping your home in good condition can get exhausting at times with all the home maintenance and cleaning, this calls for a week or a weekend getaway every once in a while. Living in Florida provides us with so many different fun and exciting destinations but how do you know which places are the best? To help you decide where to head off to this summer we’ve collected some of the best spots to visit in Florida. From beaches to nightlife to museums, which location or locations will you find yourself traveling to?

    1. Key West, FL

    Key West is a popular destination during the summer because it hosts the Hemingway Days Festival each July. This year the festival will be held on July 16th through the 21st. Go check out this huge festival that honors the legacy of the American literary giant who once lived in the keys. Or go snorkel the beautiful waters, visit the most southern point of Florida, take a stroll through Duval Street and end the day at Mallory Square to watch the gorgeous view of the sunset.

    Hemingway Days Festival

    Best things to do in Key West

    Southernmost point mile marker - Key West

    [Image via Live Beaches]

    2. St. Augustine, FL

    Indulge yourself into some history by going to not only Florida’s oldest city but also the oldest city within the United States. St. Augustine offers beautiful historic sites, an iconic lighthouse, museums, nation’s oldest masonry fort, shopping, and even a great beach. You won’t regret visiting this town!

    Go to the Visit St Augustine website to find the best places to visit

    Historic monument in St. Augustine

    [Image via Florida’s Historic Coast]

    3. Ginnie Springs, High Springs, FL

    As the temperatures continue to increase you need to find a way to cool off, the best way to do so is by visiting one of Florida’s freshwater springs. There are plenty to choose from! The refreshing cool spring water will help you cool right off. Ginnie Springs is one of the most visited and gorgeous springs in Florida. What makes it so unique is that Ginnie Springs actually interconnects with 4 other springs. It creates the perfect lazy river, camping spot, kayak rides, and much more.

    Check out Ginnie Springs

    Find a major spring near you

    People in Ginnie Springs on floaties

    [Image via Ginnie Springs]


    4. Sanibel Island

    Sanibel Island is an island full of untouched, natural beauty with lovely sandy beaches. One of the most unique barrier islands of the world, having an east-west orientation, while most islands are north-south. Sanibel is well known for having beautiful shells. Time to get away and go shelling for the weekend!

    Best things to do on the island

    sandy beach in Sanibel Island

    [Image via travel + leisure]


    5. Miami, FL

    Miami offers amazing beaches and even better nightlife. The nightlife has great city vibes with top-notch restaurants and clubs. Miami also has good shops, beautiful national parks, and museums. The Vizcaya Museum & Gardens is a must see!

    Best things to do in Miami

    Vizcaya Museum & Garden

    Aerial shot of Miami skyline

    [Image via 100 Babson Centennial]

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