Home Owners Insurance

Vacant Home Insurance – not your regular home owners insurance

By | Buyers, Insurance, Sellers, Sonoma County info | No Comments

I am surprised how many people believe that a home needs to be vacant in order to be able to sell it. Especially in the Netherlands, the majority of the homes that are for sale are vacant. When we sold our home when we moved to the California we had already moved here but had a tenant in the home for a little bit. We always felt it is better for a home to be lived in. In Sonoma, on average about 30% of the homes that are for sale are not occupied.

Besides the importance of staging a home and giving itHouse on Fire the appearance that it is occupied, it is of an even greater importance to inform your insurance agent that you no longer live in the home. The normal home owners insurance does not cover a vacant home. Vacant homes have a higher risk as to damage and burglary, thus the policy is more expensive. Yet that is a small price to pay in case something happens.

Erin Temple from Vantreo Insurance mentioned that not all insurance companies offer coverage for vacant homes, this is depending on company, location and situation.

Forest fire- house on fireI know, insurance is not something that is on our minds on a daily basis (for sure not on mine) and yet it is so important. I have come to the conclusion that a knowledgeable insurance agent is key in having the proper amount of coverage. Someone who explains what is covered and what is not covered in language that is easy to understand while making sure there are no gaps in the policy. BTW, I can highly recommend Erin, please feel free to contact her with any questions/inquiries.

Last week the property of one of my friends Burglarparents was burglarized. The burglars took the kerosine heather and the wood stove, besides a lot of other things. Apparently since the heaters were permanently attached to the house, they were not insured, it was in the small print in the policy. Both are very expensive to replace, a hard pill to swallow when you receive the bad news that certain things are not covered. That is why it’s a good idea to review your plans with your insurance agent BEFORE a loss happens.




Living Trusts and Your Home – Are you properly insured?

By | Buyers, Insurance, Sellers, Sonoma County info | No Comments

Buying, selling, owning Real Estate affects many aspects of our life. Every time when someone asks: what does a Realtor do? I always say: that depends on the situation. When helping a home owner with a short sale, there is a lot of financial documentation to be taken care of. Other times marketing the property to the right niche of buyers needs a lot of attention. It all depends on the local Real Estate market and the personal situation.

Recently my insurance agent Erin Temple with Vantreo Insurance mentioned an important ‘detail’ with regards to trusts. Many home owners use qualified personal residence trusts (QPRTs), other forms of trusts and limited liability companies (LLCs) as vehicles to reduce tax liability and/or provide other legal protection of assets.

However a ‘trust’ as well as an LLC  are different legal entities and as thus should be named in the insurance policy. Say for instance the home owners/casualty insurance names Mr. and Mrs Smith as the insured, yet the home is for instance put in a trust, the trust is the legal owner of the property, not Mr. and Mrs. Smith. In case something happens, this might be a good reason to deny a claim.

Mathew Sweiffler, a local Financial Planner -who I can highly recommend btw- forwarded an interesting article about the subject.

There are so many details that are extremely important, I highly recommend you check your insurance policy to make sure have the appropriate coverage BEFORE something happens. Both Erin and Mathew are great resources if you have more questions.




Natural and Man Made Hazards… Natural disasters

By | Buyers, Disclosures, Dutch stuff, Sonoma County info | No Comments

In 1953 there was major flooding in Netherlands: in the night of January 31 many dykes in the provinces of Zeeland, Zuid Holland and Noord Holland broke due to the combination of a spring tide and a northwesterly storm. Your first reaction might be ofcourse, about 50% of the country is below sea level… And you are right, Netherlands depends on the protection of dykes. The ‘watersnood of 1953’ caused a change in the priority (tax dollars) given to the maintenance of  dykes and water ways.

Now living in Sonoma County… part of the 3rd party Hazard Disclosure is whether a property is located in a flood zone. There are Special Flood Hazard Areas, areas of potential flooding, coastal flood areas, areas contained by flood control measures -dams- and more… Hmm sounds familiar ;)… It’s not that bad, parts of Sonoma County are more prone to flooding than others. When the Russian River floods it’s  due to extreme weather, the last time was about 7 years ago.

There are maps available showing where high risk flood zones are. When you buy a property and one of the requirements to get a mortgage is to have flood insurance, that’s a pretty clear sign too… There is a special form for this.

You insurance broker takes care of flood insurance btw. I just checked with Erin Temple of Vantreo Insurance.

Always read all the reports you receive when you purchase a property and before you remove your inspection contingencies. Then you know the risks of the location/property you are buying and have the choice to accept these or not. A good Realtor will go over the reports too, however it is the buyer’s responsibility to read and go over all the information given… Yes it’s a lot, but not doing your homework and have to find out afterwards is worse…

By the way: I love living in Sonoma County. It is a great place to live.


Time to Evacuate!

By | Around the house, Buyers, Disclosures, Sonoma County info | No Comments

Last week we stayed at a vacation house close to Lassen Volcanic National Park, the home was in a beautiful area surrounded by forest. At one of the last days of our vacation there was a thunderstorm at night which sparked a wild fire about 11 miles south of us. The fire spread fast and we had to evacuate the house that evening.

This is called a natural hazard and part of the disclosures when someone buys a home. Sonoma County also has high fire hazard areas. Besides having this covered by the home owners insurance, there is also a lot a home owner can do to defend his/her home against fire. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has a great website with lots of information.

Landscaping is important. One of the first things to do is to create a defensible space around the house, this is the buffer you create between your home and the grass, trees, shrubs or wild land area. This space is needed to slow or stop the spread of wildfire and it protects the home from catching fire. Also realize that firefighters are reluctant to go into a situation that will put themselves in danger and pick the homes that are easiest to protect first, depending on the situation.

While creating that defensible space, it is also important to use fire resistant plants for landscaping. While there are no ‘fire-proof’ plants, plants with high moisture and have low sap or resin content take longer to ignite. Hardwood trees like maple, poplar and cherry trees are less flammable than pine and fir. Check with your local nursery about fire resistant plants that are suited for your area.

And don’t forget to check with your insurance agent yearly to make sure you have enough coverage in case your home burns down. As mentioned before, a great local agent I can highly recommend is Erin Temple with Vantreo Insurance, she makes sure you have the correct insurance, whether or not you live in a high risk area.


Insurance Scam?… or???

By | Around the house, Buyers, Disclosures, Sonoma County info | No Comments

As we all know, news sells because it’s catchy and the person writing the headline for a story is usually not the journalist writing the story. With that said, last week one of my buyer clients asked me whether I new about the new Insurance Scam: banks placing forced insurance on properties. Example of a recent article about BofA accused of doing this.

Without going into great detail as to what exactly happened, there is something to keep in mind: Your lender has an interest in your property. When you signed your mortgage documents, you also promised to always keep your property properly insured. If not, the lender reserves the write to put insurance in place. That by itself is a fair warning, if you were the lender, you would want to make sure that there is money to rebuilt a house in case it burns down. Inherent to this, the lender’s first priority is their interest, not yours, so the insurance put in place is first covering the house, not your stuff etc. And they might have affiliations -which are disclosed when you signed the documents- who they will use. Since you are paying for this, they do not shop around for the best rates/coverage.

With that said, a lot of homeowners do not open all the mail they receive from their lender, some of it is advertizing, some of it is real. Word to the wise: ALWAYS open ALL the mail you receive from your lender. They will warn you when they feel the need to place insurance on your property so you can take action. AND also make sure that your lender is always mentioned as a beneficiary on your insurance policy. That is one of the reasons a lender wants to see proof of insurance when you purchase or refinance your home.

I talked to my insurance agent, Erin Temple of Vantreo Insurance about this and she confirmed that it happens quite a bit, main reason homeowners not opening their mail. She used even an example of a person who bought a home and told her ‘the title company just got me a policy’.

Insurance is important, depending on where you live, some coverages are more important than others: right now there is a 15 year record cold in Netherlands, good to have insurance coverage for this, in Sonoma County we have other priorities like high fire hazards or pools. Your insurance agent is aware of local hazards and will advise accordingly, locally I find Erin a great resource for all my questions/concerns.