Are Your Most Valuable Items Covered? 4 Simple Steps to Make Sure

What do holidays, special occasions, and inheritances have in common? If you guessed the acquisition of a new possession, then you’d be right. Before the excitement about your new TV, appliance, jewelry, antique, art, or other valuable item wears off, remember that acquiring new items also increases the monetary value of your home’s contents. Your homeowner’s insurance should be updated to adjust for additions that add significant value. Here are four simple steps for making sure your most valuable items are covered:

Step 1: Take a home inventory.

Go through your home periodically and take note of the most valuable items, as these are the items you’ll want to insure against damage or loss from events like theft or fire. For most, these items usually consist of electronics, jewelry, art, antiques, collectibles, appliances, and rare items. If an item would be hard or impossible for you to replace, then it should be included. Also keep in mind that standard policies usually limit firearm coverage since thieves commonly target them.

Step 2: Get an appraisal.

Some items are more difficult than others to assign value, especially antique or sentimental items. A professional appraisal can be very helpful in finding out the true value of an item. It’s also useful for purposes of estate planning.

Step 3: Document your belongings.

Any item on your home inventory list should be visually documented with photo or video. This will speed up the claim process. Make sure the shots are clear and show the details of the item. It’s also a good idea to get a wide shot of each wall in every room of your home. Upload your photo and video files to an online photo storage site like Google Photos, or store hard copies in a safe deposit box.

Step 4: Review your coverage.

Many homeowners don’t know what’s covered by their homeowner’s insurance until disaster strikes and it’s time to submit a claim. You could find yourself trying to replace expensive items out of your own pocket. Don’t leave yourself in the dark and compound emotional loss with financial loss.

You’ve already done an inventory and appraisal. Now, it’s time to compare the value of the items on your inventory list to your existing coverage. Make sure the coverage is sufficient to compensate you should you suffer a theft or disaster-related loss. Pay close attention to any category that contains exclusions or limits losses to a specific dollar amount.

If you note any discrepancies or have any questions or concerns, schedule a policy review with your insurance agent — remember, we’re here to help!

Steer Clear of 5 Common Construction Frauds

When warm weather arrives, it sometimes brings with it contractors wanting to steal from homeowners. They provide bogus, unnecessary repairs — or in some cases, no work is done at all. These dishonest contractors love the warmer months when hurricanes, tornadoes, hail, and severe storms are more common. After storms pass, they swoop in on unsuspecting homeowners who are desperate for quick repairs.

While the majority of contractors out there are honest, use caution when one shows up at your front door. Good contractors do not need to solicit themselves in this manner to find work. A contractor knocking on your door might say they walked by and happened to notice something wrong, or they may offer to get the house ready for storm season before any major cells hit. If there was a recent storm, they may simply show up and offer to fix something that is damaged.

A homeowner who falls victim to these scams could lose thousands of dollars, and then having to spend more money for real repairs or trying to recover money from a con artist only complicate the situation. If the insurance company does not cover fraudulent repairs, the homeowner might never be recompensated.

Here are the five worst scams to watch out for:
Scam Number 1: Poor Work Quality
Con artists often use cheap materials, and the work is low-quality (if they do any repairs). Homeowners find themselves needing to have the repairs redone and paying for them out of pocket.  
Scam Number 2: Required Prepayment
With this type of scam, the contractor will ask for a large sum of money upfront. After receiving the funds, the individual disappears or does minimal work. In some cases, they ask homeowners to pay for bids.
Scam Number 3: Inflated Damage
In order to increase billable expenses, contractors performing this type of scam might make the holes in roofs larger, or they might inflate the bill for work that was not actually completed.
Scam Number 4: Phantom Damage
In this type of scam, the contractor says there is storm damage where there is none. They might damage sidewalls or roofs themselves, and then repair their own damage.
Scam Number 5: Deductible Payment
Some contractors offer to pay the homeowner’s deductible in order to gain business. This is always a plot to lure people in for fraudulent work.
How to Avoid Scams
Fortunately, there are several ways to combat fraud. Remember these simple tips:
– Verify a contractor’s license. Most licensed contractors are not willing to lose their reputation by doing fraudulent work, and such actions could be connected to a licensed contractor for a long time. Check with local and state licensing agencies for proper verification procedures.
– Steer clear of door-to-door contractors. Good contractors are usually too busy to knock on doors. Only someone who is desperate will go from door to door.
– Do your research. Search for the contractor on Google or Angie’s List, and read their reviews.
– Demand a contract. Do not sign a contract and with spaces left blank. Make sure the contract specifies what work will be done, and that it includes a repair schedule and price.
– Work with a trusted insurance agent. Do not let a contractor talk to your insurance company directly. Instead, work directly with your agent and your insurance company, who will survey the damage and decide what repairs are necessary. Having the right repairs done by a reputable professional is crucial in order to be covered by your insurance company.
– Look out for red flags. Many con artists do not have references or business cards, and might also be hesitant to provide an address. A business address listed as a PO Box should also raise concern. Look to see whether the individual’s vehicle is parked within view, and what shape it’s in. Ask for proof of insurance as well — often a contractor out to commit fraud will not be able to produce any.

By using caution and working with people you know and trust, you can protect yourself from scams!