Elliott & Associates Insurance

Homeowners & Business Insurance – Opelika, AL/Auburn, AL

The No. 1 Reason for Home Insurance Cost Increases — July 20, 2016

The No. 1 Reason for Home Insurance Cost Increases

Roof Problems
Photo by Ceridwen

Does it seem like the amount you pay for your homeowners policy continues to climb? But everything is, right? The price of food, cars, clothes. When you were a kid, everything was cheaper. But inflation and the price of oil has little to do with premium increases. It’s actually much simpler than that.

Claims drive the cost of any insurance policy.

The recent rise in accidents due to distracted driving has had a huge effect on car insurance premiums. Homes are no different. But unlike accident statistics, there may be something you can do about your home insurance premium.

Our houses are intended to protect us and our things from the elements. And no part of the house works harder to do this than the roof. Our roofs take a beating from rain, sun, wind, hail and the occasional basketball. And because of that, the majority of claims are roof related. As a result, insurance companies are very interested in what kind of roof you have, what shape it is in and how old it is.

If you haven’t had any claims, the age of your roof is probably the number one reason for your homeowners premium to go up.

A typical asphalt shingle roof that is supposed to last 25 years is considered old by insurance companies after 10 years. Some companies won’t insure the house at all if the roof is older that 15 years. If your roof is five years old or less, you’re in the best shape. The insurance company will not only take you at a lower cost, but your coverage will also be better.

That gets into completely different territory. You think price is the most important factor unless you’ve ever had a claim. Once you’ve had a claim, you understand that being able to replace your roof is what really matters. But insurance companies do not want to pay for a brand new roof on a claim where a 20 year old roof was damaged. Therefore, companies that will insure homes with older roofs will only insure the roof for actual cash value. What that means is if you have a claim, and your roof needs to be replaced, they will pay for an old roof. Not a new one. That scenario would put you in a position of not only paying your deductible but also paying the difference for a new roof.

Replacing an old roof could lower your premium around 25%.

And having architectural shingles or better yet metal roofing installed will keep that premium down longer. And best of all, you’ll be insured for replacement cost and not just cash value.

Are you unhappy with your homeowners premium? Could it be related to your roof?

Have you replaced your roof in the last few years? Have you told your agent?

What Gas Prices Tell Us About Insurance — June 10, 2016

What Gas Prices Tell Us About Insurance

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Love is blind. So is financial planning.

Perhaps it seemed like a good idea at the time. In 2008, gas prices were skyrocketing taking almost a daily increase moving right past the $3/gallon mark at the beginning of the year and headed to the $4/gallon by the middle of the year. One auto maker had a plan and a promotion to match the hysteria.

If you bought a new car, they would guarantee $2.99/gallon gas for up to three years. It sounds crazy now, but at the time, it looked like a huge blunder by the auto maker, not the consumer. The feeling at the time was that there was no end in sight to the gas crunch.

I remember being at a party with someone who had bought a car based on this program and listening to a friend chide him in late October about the offer. With a sly smile he quizzed, “So, are you still having to pay $2.99/gallon?” By this time, the market had stabilized and gas was well below $2.99/gallon and quickly headed below $2/gallon. Any “savings” had long since been negated due to a change in the market.

While insurance markets don’t tend to change as quickly as the gas and oil markets, it should be noted that what may have worked for you a few years ago may not be the best option for your current situation. Our job is to make sure your insurance program matches your current situation. For this very reason, we work with different companies, so we can find a company that fits your current needs and offer other solutions as your needs change.


Alex Rainey

Independent Agencies are so different. — December 3, 2015

Independent Agencies are so different.

Maybe he's just... different.
Photo by John

I’m often asked what kind of work I do. When I reply I’m an insurance agent, the next question is “Who do you work for?”. Usually my answer is “I don’t work for any particular company, I’m independent.”

This always brings up the same question: “What does that mean?”. Since this question comes up so often, I thought I would share information today that explains how an independent agency works.

When I first entered the industry in 1980 I was an employee of an insurance company. The only insurance I could offer was their products. If it didn’t fit their appetite, I would have to tell the customer they would have to get their insurance from someone else. Or, if they had claims issues and their policy was cancelled, I didn’t have anything else to offer them.

After several years of this, I decided there had to be a better way. Surely there was a way to offer more than just what one company provided. I longed for the day I could say to my customer “If this company doesn’t want to do it, I have others that will.” That day came when I started an independent agency. As independent agents, we’re not employed by the insurance companies. We are contracted with numerous, well respected companies such as Travelers, Auto-Owners, Progressive, Safeco, Liberty Mutual, Foremost and others to represent them and offer their products, but they don’t dictate to us. You, our customer, along with our guidance decide which company best fits your situation.

Another area where independent agents are different is when you have a claim. We are your claims advocate. Since we are not employed by an insurance company, they can’t tell us to stay out of it in the event we feel they’re not handling your claim to the best of their ability. Most people don’t realize how huge this is. When you buy from an agent, you expect they will be there to assist you in the time you need them the most. Unfortunately, that’s usually no longer allowed unless you’re an independent agent. So, with that said, I’m proud we’re still able to do what I started twenty three years ago when I began our independent agency, and we look forward to providing this service to you for many more years to come.

Thanksgiving Safety — November 24, 2015

Thanksgiving Safety

“Thanksgiving is the leading day of the year for home fires involving cooking equipment.”

Thanksgiving is an enjoyable time for many of us. But the extra cooking combined with the added chaos of people can cause accidents if we aren’t prepared.

Take a look at the tips that the National Fire Protection Association gives:

Thanksgiving Safety flyer

Winter Fire Safety Tips — November 3, 2015

Winter Fire Safety Tips

Half of home heating fires occur in just three months out of the year (December, January and February). Space heaters are responsible for four out of five deaths from home heating fires. But 100% of home heating fires are preventable!

The National Fire Protection Association has a checklist of tips to help prevent house fires as the cold creeps in:

Winter Fire Safety Checklist

Chipped windshield? — October 27, 2015

Chipped windshield?

Chipped Windshield
Photo by Kenji Ross

We receive many calls from our customers regarding chipped or cracked windshields on their vehicles. Usually this is due to a rock or some object from the road finding its way to your windshield while you are driving down the road. This is a good time to check and see if you have comprehensive coverage on that vehicle. What many people don’t know is that if you do have comprehensive coverage, many companies will repair your chipped windshield without you having to pay anything, not even a deductible. You want to make sure to call your agent as soon as you realize your windshield is damaged. If you don’t and the windshield becomes a larger crack, it may not be repairable anymore and may require a full windshield replacement. In this case, you will be responsible for paying your deductible, which in many cases is more than the cost of the entire windshield. Have you heard of ‘Full Glass‘ coverage? Your agent may have an option for this, as well.

Late last year we had a customer call that had two chips in their windshield that needed to be repaired at the same time. They did not have ‘Full Glass’ coverage at the time, so it was good that they called and got them repaired before the damage could get worse. Changes in weather may also cause a chip in your windshield to turn into a full replacement, as the chip can get worse and start to crack even more over time. Keep in mind that many chips in a windshield can be hard to see, so it is a good idea to look at your entire windshield from time to time to make sure there is no damage.

These chipped windshield occurrences happen more often than some people may think and we file claims fairly often for this. Some insurance companies offer some type of ‘Full Glass’ coverage so that whether your windshield is just chipped or even if it is severely damaged and needs to be replaced, your insurance will either pay for the full repair/replacement or may have a very small deductible so that you don’t have to pay for the entire repair. This is a good option for someone who travels a lot or someone that just wants that extra peace of mind. A windshield can be expensive to replace, so ask your agent for a quote on ‘Full Glass’ coverage.

Is Driving a Right or a Privilege? — October 15, 2015

Is Driving a Right or a Privilege?

Photo by An en Alain
Photo by An en Alain

Right is often used as a synonym for privilege, but Webster’s Dictionary defines a privilege as a SPECIAL RIGHT. I think that is an accurate definition in regard to our right to drive.

Most teenagers consider driving a “rite” of passage. This is a milestone in their quest for freedom. However, as adults we need to be sure that they understand the responsibilities that are attached to this right/privilege. They also need to understand the long range consequences of the misuse of this privilege.

If you are a parent, you may be well aware of the expense involved with adding a teenage driver to your personal auto policy. In our office we hear and see the shock and financial anxiety associated with this addition to a policy. Motor vehicle accident records and claim experience have caused insurance companies to place a high premium on providing coverage for these young, relatively inexperienced drivers.

Unfortunately, no driver – not even an experienced driver – is free from the possibility of an accident; however, age and experience can often prevent an accident. So perhaps before turning the keys and car over to your teenage driver, you might want to discuss guidelines that might prevent trouble down the road.

Trouble such as…

Personal injury/death to your child, your family or others

Property damage to autos, fences, buildings, truck tractor cargo, etc.

Financial damage from civil litigation/lawsuits

 

 

And of course…

Incarceration that might be the outcome of a serious motor vehicle accident – especially if it involves drugs or alcohol.

 

A driver’s license is a rite of passage of a sort – a move to a more adult season in the life of your teen. Celebrate its arrival, but a serious conversation might prevent this celebration from becoming a disaster.

 

MORE TO FOLLOW IN A FUTURE ARTICLE:

Safe Driving Habits: Sound Protection Suggestions that can give you Peace of Mind

Is your website lonely? Maybe it’s just unpopular. — October 9, 2015

Is your website lonely? Maybe it’s just unpopular.

Photo by Rich Jones
Photo by Rich Jones

If you own a business, be it big, medium or small, can you just stick a website out there on the internet and wait for the traffic to come in? Or is paying a company for “SEO” worth it? Unfortunately, it’s complicated. But on the bright side, it’s possible to do most of it yourself. In fact, it’s probably smarter (ie, more effective) if you do it yourself!

With the majority of people online using search engines, we all want our businesses to be relevant. But what if 150 other websites are relevant too? How does Google or any other search engine for that matter decide who makes the top of the list? At one time, it had a lot to do with keywords. The more words tagged on your site that matched the words that were typed in on a search, the higher up in the ranks you got. Simple.

But no more! There are just waaaay too many websites for that to work anymore. So, what’s a search engine to do? Enter website reputation. Gone are the days where Google looks at keywords. Google now cares more about what the web thinks of you. Google wants to know that you have relevant content that people are searching for. Here are the most important ways to get in good graces with search engines:

Hang out with the popular kids

Find ways to get links to your website from reputable websites.

Stay cool

Keep fresh, up-to-date content on your site.

Don’t be a square

Make sure your website looks good on a phone as well as a desktop.

Major on the majors

Include lots of keywords in your content.

Keep it real

Make sure your relevant content is natural to read and not forced.

Run with the big dogs

Sign up for as many webmaster services as possible (ie, Google webmaster tools, analytics, maps, etc).

Shout outs

Get reviews on the big sites (Google, Yelp).

Don’t get chumped

Make sure you know that your site is secure. A hack is identity theft – not good for reputations.

Chill out

Be patient. Reputations aren’t built over night.

Check yo’self

Search for you and your company online. Pay attention not only to search engines, but also directories.

The biggest thing is being an active player. If Google catches you on the sidelines, you’ll lose ranking. Have an active Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Linked In and Instagram accounts. Post to each of them at least a few times a week. And try to post content that no one else can. Pictures that you took will be much more interesting than re-posts. Also, link to your website from those accounts on a regular basis.

And one way to have fresh content on your website is to keep a blog. Show off your expertise in the field. Share stories and experiences where you’ve learned something. Even if you messed up. Trust will bring readers back. Plus, blog articles are great content for social media feeds.

Maintaining a reputation online isn’t easy. It could possibly consume hours every day. But isn’t life more fun when you’re all-in?

 

Is your loan worth more than your vehicle? — October 1, 2015

Is your loan worth more than your vehicle?

Photo by ikeX
Photo by ikeX

Pop Quiz: When insuring a new vehicle, does the insurance company insure what the vehicle is worth or how much the person owes on the vehicle loan?

Not everyone associates their vehicle loan with their vehicle insurance. Have you heard of loan/lease payoff coverage? Some companies may call it ‘gap’ coverage. This coverage is intended to help pay for a portion or possibly the entire difference between what you owe on a vehicle loan and what the vehicle is actually worth at the time of a covered loss. Surprisingly, this is usually a fairly inexpensive coverage that can be added to your policy when you carry comprehensive and collision coverage on the particular vehicle.

Here’s a good example: One of our customers in the Lake Martin area had purchased a new vehicle a few years back. They opted to take the loan/lease payoff coverage, and thankfully so. During a period of heavy rain, a flash flood occurred and totaled their new vehicle. After being examined by the adjuster, it appeared their vehicle was worth about $3,700 less than what they had left to pay off on their loan. But, with their loan/lease payoff coverage, the insurance company was able to cover that additional amount so that our insured did not have to take that money out of their pocket. So when taking out a loan or a lease on a vehicle, hopefully you will consider this coverage and decide to ask your agent about it.

 

 

Why would I insure my house for more than it’s worth? — September 24, 2015

Why would I insure my house for more than it’s worth?

Picture taken by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District

Why should I have to insure my home for more than it’s valued? Often we in the insurance industry will come up with an amount that we feel the property should be insured for that is greater than the amount the owner recently paid for it or the amount of the appraisal. You would think insurance companies wouldn’t want to insure something for more than was paid for it. Wouldn’t this possibly be creating a situation where the property owner could profit from his/her loss?

Let’s pause for a moment and consider what we’re trying to accomplish here. Remember, we’re trying to arrive at an adequate amount to re-construct your property. There can be a big difference between construction cost or appraised value versus what it actually costs to re-construct.

As an example let’s look at the damage the tornados caused in Alabama a few years back. Not only were homes and businesses extensively damaged or destroyed, there were mountains of debris that had to be removed and disposed of before work could begin. Once that was removed, if there was property inside that could be salvaged, that had to be removed, cleaned and stored. Then the process of removing the building/s and disposing of the materials could begin. Only at that point can the lot be prepared for the foundation and re-construction begin.

So, you can see there can possibly be a much greater cost to re-construct than there would be to initially construct. That’s what’s figured into our replacement cost calculations and the reason our figures are higher than some might think they should be. If you only insure for the appraised value, you quite possibly will come up short and have to pay thousands of dollars out of your pocket.