Appraising Your Prized Possessions
Television shows featuring auctions and appraisal fairs have ushered the art of appraising into the limelight with fascinating stories—an ancient artifact unknowingly passed down from generation to generation, a rare trinket picked up at a yard sale, or an historic relic found tucked away in the corner of the attic. If you know you own expensive items, such as antiques or artwork, or even think you might, consider having your valuables appraised for insurance purposes.
An appraisal is an expert valuation of property. Appraisers, practitioners of valuation, are professionals trained to provide far more than a guess at an object's worth; they assess value based on formal methodology and comply with standards and codes of conduct generally practiced in the field. An appraisal can help you make informed coverage decisions, as well as provide you with professionally prepared documentation should you need to validate your property's worth in the event of a loss.
Coverage Makes a Difference
Current appraisals are particularly useful when you own expensive items such as furs, jewelry, gold, sterling silver, and antiques. Homeowners' policies generally limit coverage for these expensive items, but appropriate protection may be available at additional cost.
To broaden and increase coverage for expensive items, consider a scheduled personal property endorsement, which broadens the coverage of the basic homeowners policy by listing items supported by recent bills of sale or appraisals. Blanket coverage may also be available as part of a homeowners policy. With this coverage, homeowners pay an extra premium to increase the per-item and aggregate benefit without the need for appraisals or bills of sale. The best approach, either blanket coverage or scheduling items separately, depends on the possessions involved and the specifics of your policy.
You spend much of your life working and saving to attain financial stability and desired possessions. Why not take the time to meet with a professional appraiser and one of our qualified insurance professionals to help ensure that your treasures are protected?
Electronic Stability Control
Electronic Stability Control (ESC) is a vehicle control system that uses high-tech sensors to help prevent vehicles from veering off course by under- or over-steering or rolling over. Under-steering occurs when the front wheels lose traction, causing the car to move forward rather than to turn. Over-steering happens when the vehicle turns farther than the driver intended, causing the rear wheels to slide. A car equipped with ESC can help correct both of these dangerous situations. Since September 2011, ESC has been standard on every new car built in the United States.
Experts tout ESC as the best safety advance since the seat belt, and expect it to save thousands
of lives. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that it can prevent 34% of car and 59% of SUV rollovers. Although ESC cannot correct every situation, buying a car that has it may not only save you money on your car insurance, but it may save lives.
Building Homes That Keep Storm Waters at Bay
The devastation caused by recent hurricanes and heavy rainfalls has alerted Americans living in storm-prone regions to the need for sturdily constructed homes that can withstand the onslaught of even large amounts of water. It may be impossible to build a home that will maintain a dry interior under all weather conditions, but certain materials, design features, and grading techniques can dramatically improve the chances that a home will suffer minimal damage should disaster strike.
To protect homes from flooding and driving rain, contractors are advised to use building materials that absorb no moisture, or will dry rapidly after exposure to water without sustaining damage. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the most flood-resistant materials for floors include concrete or tiles made of ceramic, clay, terrazzo, vinyl, and rubber. For walls and ceilings, FEMA recommends cement board, concrete, brick, metal, glass blocks, and ceramic or clay tiles. If lumber is used, it should be pressure-treated and naturally decay-resistant.
Having tested the durability of different types of building materials when exposed to storm-like conditions, researchers at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing (PATH) warn against building with gypsum unless it is water-resistant and fiber-reinforced, and preferably mold-resistant as well.
For exteriors of homes located in hurricane- or flood-prone areas, PATH recommends installing siding made of fiber cement or vinyl, and trim and corner boards made of plastic or a wood-plastic composite. If wind-driven rain is a potential problem, a drainage plane may be built behind the siding. According to PATH researchers, rigid foam or spray polyurethane foam insulation are better choices than fiberglass batt, which can retain water. While standard aluminum or vinyl windows generally offer adequate protection from water intrusion, the edges of doors and windows should be sealed with low-expansion foam to prevent leakage.
In hurricane-prone areas, out-swing entry doors and storm-resistant shutters for windows can reduce the chances that doors and windows will be blown in by heavy winds, allowing water to enter. Since roof shingles are often lost in hurricanes, a peel-and-stick roof underlayment may be applied directly to the roof decking to form a secondary drainage plane. Externally baffled ridge and soffit vents provide better protection than unbaffled vents from wind-driven rain damage.
In coastal areas where flooding can be severe, FEMA recommends that house foundations consist of deeply embedded piles or columns, rather than solid walls. Whenever possible, homes should be constructed at least one story above the base flood elevation. If a ground floor is built in high-risk zones, it should be used for parking or other less essential functions. Electrical panels, furnaces, water heaters, and appliances are also better protected when located on the second floor or higher.
Homes prone to minor flooding may have solid foundations, provided they are built with concrete or other strong materials. To reduce the chances of water seeping into the home under exterior doors or walls, builders may want to consider creating shallow indentations at the edges of concrete foundation slabs or floor slabs.
Proper grading and landscaping can help to keep water away from the home. The grading immediately adjacent to the foundation should be sloped a minimum of 5%—10% for at least 10 feet from the base of the house. Gutters and downspouts with long extensions will help prevent rainwater from pooling near the foundation walls.
Homes in wet areas should also have a foundation drainage system, which usually consists of a waterproofing membrane combined with a drain path and a gravel drainage layer or foundation drainage panels made of geotechnical fabrics. If a site is particularly prone to flooding, it may also be necessary to install a radial drainage pipe system that sends water to a sump pump for removal. Backflow valves should be installed to prevent sewage from backing up into the house in the event of flooding.
In addition to keeping out flood waters, homes built to resist water intrusion also tend to be energy efficient, and are less prone than conventional houses to moisture-related problems, such as mold and termite infestations. Building a home that stands up well to storms is not cheap, but buyers concerned about quality, comfort, and the security of their investment will appreciate the value of these upgrades.
For Your Information
Keeping our loved ones safe is important during every season. Now more than ever, it is important for parents to be aware of safety precautions and share the information with their children throughout the school year. The National Safety Council, www.NSC.org, provides a Back-To-School safety checklist that reviews important safety procedures to ensure your children are prepared for school, including transportation, playground, and backpack safety.
Energy Saving Tips
There are several strategies to help you save energy during the fall and winter months when temperatures dip. The Energy Department of the U.S. government has a website, www.energy.gov, that makes these strategies available to you. Some of the tips are free, and others are inexpensive actions that will help you save money. The site even has a video on how to conduct a home energy assessment to find out where you can save the most.
Moving is a chore that requires careful planning and preparation. To make things easier, you can file the U.S. Postal Service Official Change of Address form over the web. To complete the form, go to moversguide.usps.com. By making your change online, you have access to exclusive mover savings, you save a trip to the post office, you receive an immediate email confirmation, and you have access to catalog forwarding services.
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