The Christmas Tree Conundrum: Real or Fake?

The kind of tree that adorns a person’s home during the holidays can provoke debate as much as Coke versus Pepsi or Chevy versus Ford.

When it comes to Christmas trees, do you choose live or artificial? Do you cut your own at one of our local tree farms, or pop by the tent in the Home Depot parking lot? Alternatively, do you prefer the convenience of an artificial tree that won’t shed its needles, doesn’t need water, and already has lights?

Both live and artificial trees have their advantages and disadvantages, and we here at The Wurzel Insurance Agency certainly aren’t going to try to convince you that one is better than the other. However, in the spirit of giving, we thought we’d provide some information to help you make the best decision for you and your family.

Artificial trees

According to the North Carolina Consumers Council, artificial trees pose fewer safety concerns than live trees, but that’s not to say they don’t have risks of their own. Even fake trees can catch fire when socket are overloaded with Christmas lights, and it only takes seconds for any tree to become completely engulfed in flames. Also, yes, even flame-resistant artificial trees will eventually succumb to a fire. 

When using a pre-lit tree, always follow instructions, and place the tree in an open area where a fire won’t quickly spread to furniture or other things nearby.

The benefits of artificial trees, of course, are well-known. They’re convenient and often less messy than real trees. You can reuse them year after year, saving money and saving the environment. So, there’s no need to spend time searching for the perfect tree since it’s usually easy to adjust the branches to your liking.

Live trees

OK, so you want the real deal. That’s great! However, you’re going to have to take a little more care than you would with an artificial tree. First of all, pick a tree that’s in good shape. If needles come off quickly when you give it a shake or a quick pull on a branch, find another one. 

When you get it home, cut off the bottom two inches of its trunk, and fill the tree stand with water regularly to prevent a fire. Remember not to overload it with lights and decorations. Also, the longer you keep your tree up, the drier — and the more dangerous — it will become. 

Dispose of your tree properly as well. Don’t burn it or put it in your fireplace, as a burning Christmas tree can be harder to control than other types of fires.

If you’re a fan of real trees, you probably don’t need us to tell you the benefits. Just take in that smell and enjoy the season!

No matter what tree you choose, the important thing is to keep safety in mind as well. If you do that, your holiday enjoyment will be real, even if your tree isn’t! 

The Wurzel Insurance Agency is here for you! Give us a call at (407) 977-5700 to speak with one of our experienced agents, or email us:

Why a Home Inventory Is Important

Let’s try a little exercise: Can you list everything you own from memory? I didn’t think so.

The fact is that most people own more things than they realize. It’s easy to remember the cars, the computer, the TV. However, what about that holiday china in the garage? Alternatively, every pair of shoes?

Did you know this is personal property for insurance purposes? Also, if a fire or some other disaster destroys your home,  a list of possessions makes filing a claim easier. It also helps you put your life back together.

Why should you complete a home inventory and what’s the best way?

Comparing the value of your belongings to the “contents” limit listed in your policy helps you make sure you have enough insurance. You need coverage to replace the items if they are lost, stolen, or destroyed. The easiest way to take an inventory is to video with your smartphone, recording, and describing items as you walk through your house. Then email it to yourself, so the files are stored in the cloud. Alternatively, you can use a regular camera and create a home inventory checklist.

Here are a few tips for completing and storing your inventory:

  • Add brand names and descriptions where you can, especially on large-ticket items. Serial numbers are helpful to note.
  • Keep any receipts you have with the list to make the claims process more manageable.
  • Store your video or photo inventory offsite, so you won’t lose it if your house is damaged.
  • Update your personal property records when you purchase new furnishings and valuables.

Though the task may seem daunting, it’s essential to try. An incomplete inventory is better than nothing at all. 

How much insurance do I need?

We can assist you in analyzing your insurance needs and help you decide how to protect your personal property most effectively. You should consider full-value coverage, which will pay for the replacement value of your personal belongings. A standard policy typically covers your property only up to its actual cash value, determined by taking the replacement cost and deducting depreciation, which can be substantial. (For example, a 5-year-old TV is usually worth much less than what it would cost to purchase a new one.) 

Finally, remember your homeowner’s policy covers valuable items such as jewelry, furs, art, and antiques, only up to set dollar amounts. If the cost of replacing them exceeds these limits, you may want to purchase scheduled personal property coverage. We hope you’ll never need the home inventory, but preparing for the worst can prevent much hassle later!

The Wurzel Insurance Agency is here for you! Give us a call at (407) 977-5700 to speak with one of our experienced agents, or email us:

Halloween Safety

Make your house a haven for trick-or-treaters

Halloween is one of the fall season’s most loved holidays. Kids love to dress up, get together with friends, and go door-to-door in search of the biggest and best goodies. 

If your neighborhood tends to be teeming with little superheroes and princesses, you’ll want to be sure your yard and stoop are safe and welcoming. A little pre-planning can prevent unfortunate accidents that could turn out to be tragic for kids and trying for you. 

Here are some pointers for ensuring your house is a safe place for trick-or-treaters on October 31. 

Pets first

Many dogs, cats, and other furry family companions get scared when oddly dressed strangers approach their door in droves. Make sure your pet is in a safe and comfortable space or take them to a secure, relaxing offsite location for the evening. 

Clean it up

If your yard gathers stuff — like toys, rakes, and other yard tools, hoses, tree branches, you name it — take the time to clean it up. Make sure your yard is free of potential hazards and create a clutter-free walking path well before dusk falls this Halloween.

Light it up

Make sure you offer a well-lit path. You can do this using any yard lights, from solar, string, LED, existing outdoor lighting, or glow-in-the-dark. 

Turn it off

When done for the night, make it obvious by turning all inviting lights off. However, if you’re still offering candy in a bowl outside, do make sure to keep the path well-lit until your sweet treats are tucked away inside the house.

Your friends at The Wurzel Insurance Agency hope you enjoy a safe Halloween full of treats (not tricks)!

The Wurzel Insurance Agency is here for you! Give us a call at (407) 977-5700 to speak with one of our experienced agents, or email us:

Homeowner’s Insurance for First Time Buyers

Owning your home is an important part of a financially stable lifestyle. However, first-time homebuyers often underestimate the importance of a high-quality home insurance policy. How can a customized homeowner’s insurance policy from the Wurzel Agency in Oviedo, FL help you protect your Florida residence? Here are some things you should know about homeowner’s insurance as a first-time buyer.

You Really Do Need Insurance

The state of Florida doesn’t require you to have an active homeowner’s insurance policy. If you’re financing your home, however, your lender probably will need you to carry a comprehensive policy through the life of your loan.

Even if it isn’t required, you really do need an active and adequate insurance policy. Home repairs often cost more than expected. A big event like a storm, fire, or theft could drain your savings and leave you vulnerable to future emergencies. Your homeowner’s insurance policy protects your personal assets and ensures you will always have a comfortable place to call home.

All Contracts Are Not Created Equal

Homeowner’s insurance policies are designed to meet the needs of each individual subscriber. While there are some common elements to each contract, yours can be customized to speak to your specific needs. Your policy could include coverage for:

  • Liability
  • Structural damages
  • The contents of your home
  • Personal belongings
  • Additional structures on your property
  • The surrounding grounds
  • Internal structures like sewage systems and sprinkler systems

The representatives at the Wurzel Agency are always happy to help you find the perfect coverage for your family home.

Opt for a Lower Deductible

Many insurance subscribers choose a high deductible plan. This strategy reduces their monthly payments and helps them keep more of their cash. However, when a disaster occurs, these subscribers often find themselves scrambling for the funds to cover their portion of the repair bill. Choose a lower deductible to ensure you can afford needed repairs when they come up.

Talk to the agents at the Wurzel Agency for more information on homeowner’s policies for first-time buyers in the Oviedo, FL area.

In Today’s Social Media World, Are You Protected From Libel?

It is widely thought that a homeowner’s insurance policy covers only incidents that physically occur in the home. This is only partially correct — in fact, with the right conditions in place, coverage can go beyond the home and can insure you for a personal injury claim. You might think of the term “personal injury” as meaning a physical injury suffered by another party. But while a liability policy will likely apply to an incident of physical injury, personal injury is a broader concept.

In the insurance world, personal injury can include harm caused by false arrest, detention, or imprisonment; malicious prosecution; wrongful eviction; slander; libel; and invasion of privacy. A personal injury policy can protect a homeowner and others covered under the policy against a claim for almost every injury that someone can experience without suffering any actual physical harm.

Given this broader definition of personal injury, would your policy cover a claim, for example, for accidentally saying something personally harmful on social media? It depends on the scenario. Here are a few examples:

Scenario 1: Your homeowner’s policy covers liability, but does not cover personal injury liability. In this case, you would not be covered.

Scenario 2: Your homeowner’s policy specifically includes personal injury, but the coverage was added in as an endorsement. If a liability coverage amount appears on your policy, it might cover only physical injury and property damage; it might not cover personal injury. To cover personal injury, the added endorsement must specifically state the words “Personal Injury.”

Scenario 3: You have a deluxe type of homeowner’s policy that automatically covers personal injury. These policies are typically designed for large homes that are over a certain square footage and for homeowners with more sophisticated needs. The cost of these policies is slightly higher than a regular homeowner’s policy, and the policy often includes a number of additional endorsements.

Scenario 4: You have an umbrella policy. Many umbrella policies automatically include personal injury coverage and drop down to first dollar coverage. However, it’s never safe to presume this — be sure to confirm with your agent.

What’s the Bottom Line?

If you are active on social media or even in your community, you are more prone to being sued. What you say might be perfectly fine, but if someone feels your statement has injured them, as innocent as you might have thought it was, that person can file suit against you (with or without an attorney). The good news is that if you have personal injury coverage, your insurance company will defend you against such a suit at no cost to you.

In this case, you will be represented by one of the best attorneys to fend off false allegations, and you’ll save thousands in legal fees. If it turns out that something you said or the way that you said it leaves you liable for personal injury to another party, your insurance company will also pay the amount of the judgment, up to your policy coverage limits.

Ask Your Agent for a Free Policy Review

Call your insurance agent to find out if your homeowner’s or renter’s policy has personal injury coverage. If it does not, this important coverage can be added for an additional minimal cost. Be sure this coverage is listed on the declarations page of your policy and that the appropriate provision is in the policy. Many policies are sent via an electronic PDF file, and it’s easy to run a keyword search in the document for the words “Personal Injury” to see if it is included and whether you are covered.

Don’t wait until after you’ve been served with a lawsuit and it’s too late — call your agent today!

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!