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    Welcome to the world of food trucks! When you picture building your catering business, is the image more truck than tent? The mobile food industry has a long and tasty history in the U.S.
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    Like many entrepreneurs, you may have begun your catering business as the sole cook and bottle washer. But at some point, you will discover that going it alone not only impedes growth, but is a recipe for burnout and collapse. And you’ll face the question of every successful catering business: How do I find and […]

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Why Is My Home Insured for More Than I Could Sell It For?

Monday, May 9th, 2016

ReplacementValueImageWhile the market value of your home is commonly based on tax assessment records, real estate appraisals or the recent selling prices of similar homes in your neighborhood, your homeowners insurance limit is based on what it would cost to replace your home if it was completely destroyed. This is frequently a different figure from what your home could fetch on the open market.

Erie Insurance uses a program called Home Cost Estimator to determine how much it would cost to rebuild a house from the ground up. “The estimator uses information about a dwelling’s characteristics to determine the estimated replacement cost,” says Terry McConnell,vice president, Personal Lines Underwriting, at Erie Insurance. “The information is pulled from several sources to come up with a very close approximation of what it would cost to reconstruct a house.”

Factors affecting a home’s reconstruction value

Many different factors affect how much it would cost to reconstruct a home. Some of the main ones include:

  • The home’s square footage
  • The materials used in the interior and exterior construction
  • The style of the house
  • Any special or custom-built features like fireplaces or exterior trim
  • Any improvements or additions made to the home
  • The local construction costs

It’s common for a house to have a significantly higher homeowners insurance limit when it’s an older home.

“Original building materials common to older homes like plaster, hardwood floors, full-dimensional lumber and trim make the replacement cost of older homes higher than a modern home of the same size and style,” says McConnell.

A better way to insure your home

When insuring your home, the value should be equal to the amount it would cost to replace the home. You’ll also want to make sure your home is covered on a replacement cost basis rather than an actual cash value basis.

Actual cash value coverage makes a deduction from the settlement based on depreciation. Meanwhile, replacement cost coverage pays the actual cost of replacing your home with materials of like kind and quality without a deduction for depreciation.

To illustrate, imagine you paid $10,000 for a new roof. It depreciates $1,000 every year. If your roof was destroyed by a fire in Year Four, you would only get $6,000 to replace it under an actual cash value settlement. A replacement cost settlement would replace the damaged portion of the roof without a deduction for depreciation.

Many homeowners policies automatically insure homes on a replacement cost basis. Melendez Insurance can tell you more about replacement cost and how your homeowners insurance works.

Keep Loved Ones Safe With These Pool Tips

Saturday, May 23rd, 2015

pool-safety-family-and-friendsMany Americans retreat to swimming pools throughout the summer to escape the blistering heat. For some, a pool party complete with drinks, grilled food, and music is an essential part of a perfect summer day. While swimming pools are great for bringing family and friends together, there are risks and pool safety concerns home owners should consider.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly ten people drown each day in the United States and there are over 3,000 unintentional drowning deaths, unrelated to boating, every year. While swimming in a residential pool is relaxing and great for physical exercise, it does present dangers that home owners should prepare for—especially when children are present. In fact, the Red Cross states that about 200 children drown in residential swimming pools annually. Vigilance and certain safety precautions can greatly reduce accidental injuries and swimming-related deaths.

Invest in Adequate Fencing and Gates

According to MSN Real Estate, it is extremely important for home owners to have locking gates and fencing surrounding a pool. Privacy fencing at least six feet high greatly reduces the chances that an uninvited person will enter a backyard to swim. In addition to regular privacy fencing, there are specially made fences with childproof locks that can enclose the immediate pool area. The Red Cross recommends using a four-foot high fence that has self-latching and self-closing gates to keep children and pets away from the water.

Provide Swimming Lessons and/or CPR Training for Members of Your Household

If you reside in a home with a pool, every member of your household should know how to swim and understand basic CPR methods in case a swimmer or guest needs resuscitation. Furthermore, young children should be enrolled in swimming classes that are age- and skill-level appropriate so that they can learn basic swimming techniques to help prevent fear of water and promote better responses to pool-related accidents. The Red Cross and the National Swimming Pool Foundation offer an online course that teaches pool safety tips and training for accident prevention.

Beware of Faulty Drains

A potential danger to adults and children alike is faulty drains that produce too much suction where clothing, hair, and limbs can become trapped at the bottom of a pool or spa. Faulty drain issues resulted in federal mandates and consumer advocacy education regarding this danger, especially after the death of a young girl, Virginia Graeme Baker, in 2002. The Consumer Product Safety Commission launched a public awareness campaign to help prevent faulty draining mechanisms from claiming more lives.

Precautionary measures recommended by the Consumer Product Safety Commission include ensuring that spa and pool drain covers are compliant with the latest safety codes and installing Safety Vacuum Release Systems, which automatically stop a pool pump if blockage in the drain is detected. Additionally, home owners should have easy, quick access to pump switches so they can be rapidly shut down if necessary. If a swimmer is trapped by the suction of a drain, avoid pulling the person out of the drain. Instead, break the seal by inserting a small object or several fingers between the swimmer and the drain or grate.

Arm Your Pool with an Alarm System

Like homes, pools can be armed with alarm systems. For example, Leslie’s Swimming Pool Supplies, a company with stores throughout the United States, offers in-ground pool alarms that can sense entry into a pool by an animal or person weighing over 18 pounds. Using negative displacement technology, this type of pool alarm is submerged and can be activated by a remote control device. When its sensor detects in-water movement, an alarm will sound inside the home as well as in the pool to alert home owners. In addition to sounding a noticeable alarm, this safety device will also sound off when removed from the pool in its armed state. Other alternatives to pool alarms that can help notify home owners of unwanted pool activity are motion-sensor lighting and security systems for doors and windows that limit access from the home to the pool area.

Practicing pool safety and receiving proper training in responding to swimming-related accidents or injuries can offer home owners more peace of mind when it comes to protecting loved ones and friends. For more safety tips, talk with an agent at Melendez Insurance. We can help you protect your home and its occupants with valuable information and insurance coverage.

Hiring a Contractor Checklist

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

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Concerns about questionable contractors are the number one reason consumers call the Better Business Bureau.

This statistic doesn’t surprise Phae Howard, executive director of the National Center for the Prevention of Home Improvement Fraud.

“It’s easy money since most people don’t understand the language of home improvement,” says Howard, who recently published Don’t Even Think About Ripping Me Off!

Concerned about becoming a victim? Then keep these things in mind when it comes to hiring a contractor for your home improvement project.

Finding a contractor

  • Check in with your local homebuilders’ association.
  • Get referrals from friends, family and coworkers.
  • Compile a list of reputable contractors before you need one. The stress of an emergency might impair your judgment.

How to vet a contractor

  • See if the trade association(s) where he or she belongs stipulates a code of ethics, minimum hours of satisfactory work and trade exams.
  • Check in with your state attorney general’s office and the Better Business Bureau to see if there are any complaints against the contractor.

Paperwork you need to see

  • A copy of their contractor’s license
  • Certificate of insurance for both general liability and workers’ compensation coverage
  • A written warranty for the work they do
  • A list of references from people who had similar projects done
  • A detailed quote that itemizes material and labor
  • A contract detailing the cost, work to be done, time schedules, guarantees, payment schedules and other expectations

Red flags

  • Asks you to pay the entire balance up front
  • Only accepts cash
  • Avoids giving you a written contract
  • Goes door-to-door
  • Lists a P.O. Box instead of a street address
  • Has a vehicle that doesn’t list the business name
  • Offers to pay your insurance deductible

Be extra careful if:

  • You have little to no experience hiring home contractors.
  • A disability or injury prevents you from accessing areas of your home that a contractor claims are damaged.
  • You’re not 100 percent clear about the contract wording.
  • You tend to shy away from asking tough questions.

Finally, always let your Erie Insurance Agent know when you’re planning a home improvement project. If you don’t, you run the risk of coming up short if you have to rebuild after a total loss.