Monday, November 12, 2018

Dogs, Water and Playtime...What do they have in common?

From the Desk of David Wilkins - Allen Tate Insurance

Risks that affect your homeowners insurance rates

Insurance, by its very nature, is about risk – the likelihood that an insured event will occur, requiring the insurance company to pay a claim. The insurance premium you pay reflects how great the risk, based on historical data about claims.

Most of us understand that your car insurance will go up if you buy a sports car, have an at-fault accident or are charged with a moving violation that results in points on your driving record. But your homeowners insurance premium can increase based on your children’s play equipment, how you maintain your land and even your choice of four-legged, furry family members.

Dangerous dogs
You’ve decided it’s time to add a dog to the family and researched various breeds. But have you talked to your insurance company?

Yes, you need to. More than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs every year, and more than 50 percent of dog bites occur on the owner’s property. Many bites require medical attention – which could mean claims against homeowners’ liability policies.

“While all breeds of dogs can bite and temperament largely varies, many insurance companies maintain a list of dog breeds that they consider to be dangerous, based on past claims or popular perceptions of breeds,” said Robin Price, president, Allen Tate Insurance.
These breeds include Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Dobermans, Huskies, Chows, Boxers and other breeds with potentially aggressive behavior.

So what if your desired dog is on the dangerous list? It is possible that you may denied coverage, but it’s more likely you will be offered limited coverage or pay a higher premium – because of the increased risk. It’s also common for an insurance company to require you to carry additional liability insurance, in addition to your standard homeowners coverage.

But your insurance company doesn’t need to know about your dog, right? What they don’t know can hurt you.

“Your coverage could be cancelled if you haven’t notified your insurance company about your pet. And you could be sued if someone is injured by your dog,” said Price.

Worrisome water
You’ve found the perfect home – complete with a swimming pool. Anything to consider before you make an offer?

“In insurance terms, a swimming pools is considered an attractive nuisance. This strange but accurate name refers to an object, structure or condition that is both dangerous and irresistibly inviting or intriguing to children,” said Price.

While a swimming pool might make you the most popular neighbor, it also creates an opportunity for accidental death or injury. For that reason, insurance companies will require your pool to be securely gated and locked at all times. Your insurance agent may recommend raising your liability coverage and purchasing an umbrella policy for additional protection.

Other water structures like artificial or man-made fountains and ponds are also considered risky when it comes to homeowners insurance.

Playtime pitfalls

Another category of popular attractive nuisance is trampolines. While they seem like a great way to get the kids away from the video games and out of the house, trampolines are actually one of the most dangerous toys.

Trampolines cause more than 100,000 injuries annually, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, with 75 percent occurring when more than one person is jumping at the same time.

“Trampolines are also difficult to secure, so you may be liable if someone is injured, whether or not you gave them permission,” said Price.

As a result, some homeowners insurance companies will exclude trampolines from coverage. Others will require certain safety precautions or raise the premium. Similar conditions may be added for playground structures, treehouses, and skateboard ramps.

Numerous nuisances

Other attractive nuisances considered insurance risks include abandoned cars, old appliances, railroad tracks, farm and construction equipment, power lines and holes in the ground.

A landowner can be held responsible for a child injured by any of these, assuming owner had knowledge children may trespass, an object or condition has the ability to cause harm, the cost of the repair is small, or the owner fails to take reasonable action to eliminate the nuisance.

Your Allen Tate Insurance agent can advise you regarding risks that may affect your coverage. It’s important to be upfront when obtaining coverage so your insurance is not cancelled. Don’t risk it!

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

What does home mean to you?

With the mid-term elections behind us, we can all now refocus and get ready for the Holidays!  Can't believe it is already upon us!  Below are some updates we thought we'd share.
Market Update:
The Triad's average home price for October 2018 was $196,000 and the days on the market and the months supply is ticking up slightly. Below is a recent quote that was in the Winston-Salem Journal.
“While steady appreciation continues, we are beginning to see the market balance out in certain price points,” said Brooke Cashion, the association’s president. “Rising interest rates will further encourage buyers to secure housing sooner than later, as the rate increase will impact affordability and monetary outlay for years to come.”
What do the changes to Congress mean for homeowners and real estate?
What the new Congress means for real estate...Expect gridlock with tax reform, HUD cuts, flood insurance and other housing policy 
BY: INMAN Staff Writer 

When it comes to real estate, don’t expect any sea changes coming from last night’s midterm election in which Democrats seized a majority in the House and Republicans tightened their control of the Senate. For one the housing market, unlike the stock market, does not make sudden moves based on events like elections. 

Buyers will still purchase homes and sellers will still list their houses.  That is the same with the economy, it will remain strong regardless of shifts in the U.S. Congress. However, longer term public policy can play an important role, as we have learned with actions by the Federal Reserve, starting three years ago when it began raising interest rates.  Plus, tax reform has played a role — good and bad — with the real estate scene. 

Tax reform rollback? 
Last November around this time, much of Washington was focused on the first major piece of legislation from the Republican Congress: the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which passed a month later along party lines. 

The tax reform bill included some major changes for real estate, including capping mortgage interest deductions at $750,000 for both primary and secondary residences (down from $1 million previously), and capping state and local tax deductions at $10,000 (no previous cap). It also allowed pass-through entities and S-corporations — which some real estate agents and brokers may qualify as — to claim a 20 percent deduction on their business income. 

There is unlikely to be a major roll back of this policy anytime soon. 

Even with a new split House and Senate, the Congress is unlikely to pass a full rollback and President Trump would not sign a retreat of his major policy initiative. However, certain adjustments could be made through amendments, such as raising the property tax deduction. 

Budget cuts will be stalled 
Facing a ballooning $779 billion national budget deficit, the highest in six years, President Trump recently said he would ask all the members of his cabinet to cut 5 percent from their respective departmentmental budget proposals for 2019 (Agriculture, Education, Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, etc). 

However, Congress approves the federal budget and funding for all major government departments. It’s unlikely that Democrats and Republicans will agree to much on the way of cuts. Democrats will most likely fight to preserve funding for social services, education, and benefits programs, including for women’s health and affordable housing, while some Republicans will look to make deeper cuts.

Without agreement on what to cut, neither party will sign on to pass bills aimed at reducing the budget deficit, leaving attempts to curb the deficit to another Congress with a clearer majority. 

Flood insurance will not be reformed 
Just weeks after the midterms elections come to a close so too will the National Flood Insurance program, an ailing 49-year-old insurance plan that will lapse in December without re-authorization or partisan support of the so-called “21st Century Flood Reform Act.” 

Such an endeavor is easier said than done, as the bill has languished in the Senate since late last year — ever since the GOP-led House voted in favor of the bill 237-189 despite significant opposition from coastal Democrats, who believe premiums on high-risk properties could skyrocket under the reform initiative. 

Under the terms of the “21st Century Flood Reform Act,” premiums, which on average cost homeowners $650 annually but can spin out of control in coastal regions, would be capped at $10,000. Additionally, new mapping technology authorized in the new legislation would reduce rates by calculating the true risk of flooding farther inland. 

Either way, expect the lights to dim on flood reform. 

Mortgage finance 
The mortgage finance system is unlikely to be overhauled entirely. 

Under a Trump administration plan to end the conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, first floated over the summer by the Office of Management and Budget, both government-sponsored entities would be tossed into the private market, requiring each to raise their own capital and compete with traditional lenders.

But for such an endeavor to pass muster in Congress, Democrats would likely demand key concessions to buoy affordable housing. Under Trump’s proposal, HUD, which would take responsibility of all affordable housing objectives, would be untethered from the traditional mortgage market.

Critics of the proposal fear that such a shift would allow lenders to be more selective. Therefore, the odds of significant changes appears low at best. 

Executive orders by the President are expected to continue, such as moves to further wipe out punitive financial regulations and easing environment enforcement. 

No new middle-class tax cut 
In the runup to the 2018 midterm elections, President Trump said in late October that he was working with Congressional Republican leaders to pass a new tax cut bill that would reduce the burden on middle class families by 10 percent. 

However, just last week, the president and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, a Republican Congressman from Texas, said that they would need to continue working on further tax cuts with the intention of passing them during the next session of Congress, in 2019. 

Once again, since the entire Congress must vote on any new major tax cut or reform package affecting the nation, and a majority must vote in favor, it is unlikely that the new Congress will pass any significant changes.