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Fall Home Maintenance Checklist

Your Fall Home Maintenance Checklist

It would be amazing if all you needed to prep your home for fall was to hang a wreath and light a bunch of pumpkin spiced candles. While yes, those are a crucial part of getting ready for the change of seasons, there are more important (and not exactly fun) preparations that come with being a homeowner. Consider this everything you need to know before your house transitions from hot summer days to cool fall nights…and eventually freezing temperatures.

1. Clean, or possibly replace, your gutters.

Real talk: You’re so used to your gutters working properly — and draining thousands of gallons of water from your roof yearly — that you forget they could use a little TLC. If they’re clogged, you can end up with a flooded interior and damaged exterior. So clean them, and if necessary, replace them.

2. Check for drafts.

Heat loss through windows is responsible for 25-30 percent of heating energy use, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. But it doesn’t have to be that way, because weatherstripping is simple and probably the most cost-effective way to keep heating costs down.

Pro tip: To check if you have a draft issue, close a door or window on a strip of paper. If the paper slides easily, you need to update your weatherstripping.

3. Drain your outdoor faucets.

Say it with me now: “I will turn off all outdoor faucets before winter!” Drain and disconnect all garden hoses from outside spigots to prevent any water freezing. Not doing this can result to pipes bursting, so yeah, do this.

4. Bring your outdoor furniture in.

Yes, your furniture is outdoor furniture. No, that does not mean you should test the label by leaving it outside through hurricane-like weather and snowstorms. It cost you money and time to set that outdoor space up, so if you want to get another summer season out of it you should store it in a garage or shed. If you don’t have anywhere to store the items, you should cover it in a waterproof furniture cover.

5. Fix any cracks in your driveway.

I know, I know — this seems tedious and is one of those things where you’re like, “eh, it’ll be fine!” But, it could very easily not be fine. When water gets into cracks it freezes, expands, and can make the crack even bigger. Enough small cracks can turn into big cracks, and eventually the concrete can crumble. Plus, uh, you’d probably prefer a driveway without a giant pothole. So, using concrete crack sealer, fill it up and be done with it.

6. Change your filters.

Found: Another thing in your house that might be costing you more money then it should be. If your filters are clogged, it’s harder to keep your home at the temperature you want it too be which will increase your heating bills. Clean these filters monthly, not just before the fall, and thank me later. FYI: Disposable filters can be vacuumed one time before you replace it, and foam filters can just be vacuumed and not replaced.

7. Fertilize your lawn.

You know what they say: The best offense is a good defense. If you want to keep your lawn looking great in the spring and summer, you need to prep it for the fall and winter. Roots are still active when the grass isn’t growing, so applying fertilizer will prevent winter damage. Doing this will also help your lawn turn green faster in the spring, which is crucial, because who wants to look at a sad lawn once it gets nice out?

8. Test winter equipment.

Hi, I’m here from the future, where your snow blower isn’t working and you’re stuck inside and can’t get your car out to buy a new one. Seriously, just check it all now and make your life easier later.

9. Change your batteries.

Once a year you should be checking to make sure all smoke detectors and carbon monoxide devices are working. Since you’re already testing everything else out, you might as well add this on.

 

College-Bound Students

What Insurance Follows Your College-Bound Student

Congratulations your child is off to college, way to go parents!  This is an exciting time of year but also comes with a lot of questions. When it comes to insurance; let’s talk about what coverages follow your student to school.

 

Is your child taking a car to school?

>>YES. Let your insurance agent know so you can maintain full coverage, and ask about whether your child qualifies for a good-student discount, which could save on premiums.

>> NO. If your child moves 100 miles or more from home and doesn’t take a car, your carrier may allow you to temporarily exclude coverage for your child-which could decrease your rates significantly.  Just remember to add them back to the policy before they come home for breaks. If, on the other hand, you need to maintain coverage, ask your agent if you’re eligible for a student-away discount.

 

Where will they live?

 

>> On Campus. In many states, unmarried full-time students under the age of 26 are considered resident relatives of your home and should be covered under your home policy; talk to your agent for specifics.

>> In An Apartment.  It’s likely your home policy won’t offer full coverage on permanent items like furniture on electric equipment, so definitely consider a renters policy. It will also include liability coverage-an important protection in the event someone is hurt in the apartment.

 

Who’s Paying For School?

>>You. Consider a term life insurance policy for yourself. It could help your child stay in school if something happens to you.

>> Your Child. Talk to your agent about life insurance for your child’s financial future and ask for a Life Insurance Needs Analysis. They may be able to get a lower rate and better coverage. If you are a co-signer on your child’s student loans, a life insurance policy can help add to your financial protection as a co-signer.

 

Before your student heads off to college, give us a call, 651-237-5180. Let’s talk about your insurance options and discounts now and for the future.

 

Safety Tips For Keeping Your Home Safe While You’re Away

KEEPING THE HOMEFRONT SAFE WHILE YOU’RE AWAY

Following these simple tips to make sure your home is as safe and inviting when you return fr
om vacation as when you left.

LEAVE INFORMATION ~ give a neighbor and/or the house and pet sitter the contact information for your service professionals and the name and number for your insurance agent. THat way, if anything goes wrong and you can’t be reached, they can contact the appropriate people.

LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE ~ Keep your home from appearing deserted by using timers or smart bulbs. Set timers so your living room and bedroom lights turn on in the evening and go out later at night. Also, consider installing motion sensor lights above all entryways (front door, garage, back door, etc.).

CREATE A CHECKLIST ~ Plan ahead and create your own to-do list well before it’s time to pack up and leave. It’ll remind you to pull the plug on electronics, adjust thermostats and turn off the main water supply if you plan to be gone for an extended time.

BE SMART ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA ~ It may be tempting to share your exciting vacation plans or wow your friends and family back home with Instagram-worthy pics while you’re away. But recognize that you’re also broadcasting that you’re not home to potential malicious offenders. Save our social sharing for after you’ve returned.

Wherever your travel plans take you this summer we hope you found these safety tips helpful. Download a copy of our homefront checklist to help get you started. As always we’re available to answer any questions, call 651-237-5180 or email info@mysentinels.com

Safety Tips For Boating At Night

 

Essential Safety Tips for Boating at Night

If you own a boat (or better yet, as the joke goes, you know someone with a boat), you’ve probably thought about spending some evenings on the water — especially in the summertime.

It’s a great thought, of course. But, when you’re boating after dark, you need to think about staying safe, even as you enjoy the stillness of the water and the starry sky.

Here are seven things to keep in mind, both before you hit the water and once you’re out cruising around:

Have a plan — and tools to help if it goes wrong.
Don’t go boating at night in an unfamiliar place. You can’t see as well, obviously, so stick to where you know the ropes, so to speak. And because things look different in the dark, make sure you have the correct navigational tools in case you get lost.

Share your plan— Always give a friend or family member your “float plan.” Include where you’re going, your boat’s description and registration information, who’s with you and when you’ll be back.

Check – and dress for – the weather— On top of the other difficulties of boating at night, you don’t want to get caught in a storm if you can help it. And you want to be comfortable, so be sure to bring clothing appropriate for the forecast. A sweatshirt, blanket and extra towels may come in handy, even in the summertime.

Do a pre-trip inspection— This is good advice for daytime boating as well, but at night it’s crucial that your navigation lights work, for starters. You also need a horn, plenty of fuel, a radio, a flashlight, flares, fire extinguishers and life jackets for all passengers.

Slow down— Speed is a factor in many boating accidents, and the limited visibility at night makes the water even more dangerous. Remember, you aren’t going to be the only one on the water at night, so know the right-of-way rules.

Pay attention— Know how to monitor the navigation lights of other vessels to recognize which direction they are going. Be particularly cautious about small vessels, such as canoes and kayaks, as well as anchored or drifting boats. Their lights can be easily confused with lights onshore.

Don’t get distracted — or drunk— It’s never okay to drink and operate a boat, so be sure you have a designated driver. And, though you’re out there to have fun, make sure you can still hear the sounds from approaching vessels. Keep the stereo low and your ears open.

While these tips are important, there’s nothing like experience to help ensure a safe voyage. If you’re a new boater or just in an unfamiliar vessel, you may want to put in more hours during the day before tackling an area at night. Even then, start with short evening outings and work your way up to a moonlight ride. And don’t forget to turn on the lights at the dock before you go!

Landscaping & Hardscaping Your Home

 

With winter behind us, this is the best time of year to update the outside of your home! These updates can include landscaping and hardscaping. Both will create an oasis, up the curb appeal, and increase the value of your home. This post will help you determine the difference and which items you need to let your insurance agent know about.

 

Landscaping is the soft, growing stuff like perennial flowers, shrubs, succulents, and trees. Softscape is living; hardscape is not. Hardscaping your yard can include outdoor dining, fireplaces, walkways, decorative stairs, decks, and even water elements. Adding a hardscape design to your yard using natural materials both increases property values and spaces in your home to be enjoyed during the seasons.

Hardscapes are considered “other structures”.  They are usually pricier in cost and add significant value to your home, you definitely want your agent to know about them. Give us a call, we can walk you through it all! 651-237-5180

Affordable Ways to Spruce Up Your Home for Spring

Spring is around the corner and if you are feeling as though your home needs a little more than a thorough spring cleaning, we have some tips for you!

There are so many ways to add some life to your home which can make you feel as though you are living in a totally different house.

The number one way is through paint! Painting a bathroom or your kitchen cabinets can really transform a space and instantly make it look brighter and cleaner.  Start with a room or two to keep yourself motivated and not overwhelmed.  Bright colors or white/neutrals are your best route.

 

 

Next up is some greenery.  Not only on the outside of your home, but bring some houseplants in.  Decorating with fresh flowers or bowls of fruit can really cheer up a corner and unify the look of freshness.  Baskets are a great way to clear and store clutter. Even hanging them on the wall can add interest thats fresh and creative. IKEA has plants both faux and real, at a fraction of the price.

 

 

 

 

 

Here are a few more to consider:

Changing out lamps, lampshades, and/or lighting quickly changes any room.

Change knobs/hardware on drawers, cabinets, and dressers.

Paint furniture such as end tables, night stands, or kitchen chairs.

Switch your bedding and towels to white or a bright color.

Get new outlet and light switch plates.

Add extra seating outside, such as a small cafe table/chairs.

Upgrade any landscaping and add potted plants and flowers to your front steps or porch.

That doesn’t seem that hard to tackle, right?  We hope these tips have been helpful to you and you transform your home into the space of your dreams!

Happy Spring!

 

 

What should I do if I have a claim?

 

 

 

You’ve just been involved in an auto accident. The most important thing is your safety. If you are injured , please call for emergency help right away.  Here are some additional steps to help you file a claim on your auto insurance:

  • Call for emergency assistance if needed.
  • Once all parties are safe it’s helpful to take pictures of the damage and exchange insurance and driver information.
  • Next call your agent whether you are at fault or not
  • Follow the directions your agent gives you to provide all documentation related to the accident and file your claim. You may need a police report.
  • Keep copies of all your documentation and bills related to the accident. Jot down detailed notes following conversations about the accident. You need to know who you spoke with and what they said, at what date and time, and how to contact the person.
  • Find out from your agent:
    • Time limitations for filing your claims and submitting bills.
    • Time limitations for resolving claim disputes.
    • When you can expect the insurance company to contact you.
    • Whether you need estimates for the damages.
    • Whether your policy covers a rental car while your car is being repaired and how much it covers.

 

Next we will cover the steps to take to file a claim on your homeowner’s insurance:

  • Report any crime to the police if its due to a burglary or a theft
  • Phone your insurance professional immediately
  • Have the insurance adjuster inspect the damage
  • Make any temporary repairs to prevent further damage to your home or items in it
  • Prepare a list of lost or damaged articles
  • If you need to relocate, save your receipts, some of those costs may be reimbursed

We hope this has helped you navigate the claims’ process and answered any of the questions you may have had.  If we can be of further help, feel free to give us a call here at Sentinel Assurance at 651-237-5180.

 

Preventing Water Damage When Out of Town

According to the Insurance Information Institute, the second most common homeowners’ insurance claim is water damage to houses.  Leaking pipes and appliances, and damage caused by storms and  freezing conditions cause millions of dollars’ worth of damage every year. If a pipe leaks or bursts while you are on vacations, water can destroy carpets and furniture and even compromise the structural integrity of your walls or foundation.  Before leaving your home for more than a few days, prep your house so you won’t come home to a big, expensive mess. Here are some steps to take before you head out of town.

Step 1: Check your home for leaks before you leave.  Look at the pipes under all sinks, and check your water heater for cracks and rust.  The seals around your windows must be in good condition, and check that there are no dislodged or damaged shingles on your roof.  Re caulk seals and replace shingles if needed.

Step 2: Inspect the hoses that connect to major appliances such as washing machines, dishwashers and refrigerator ice-makers.  Make sure there are no kinks; replace any old or damaged hoses.

Step 3: Clear all the debris out of your rain gutters, and check the downspouts for any blockages. {Better off doing this in the Fall before the cold comes.}

Step 4: Examine your sump pump and check that it is in good condition and clear of debris by filling the sump pit and running the pump.  Listen to the motor for strange sounds and watch that the water is going outside.  Install a battery-powered backup source in case there is a power outage while you are gone.

Step 5: Insulate exposed pipes to keep them from freezing in the winter.  Hardware stores sell foam rubber or fiberglass sleeves that fit right over the pipes.  Protect outdoor spigots by removing any hoses and covering the spigots with bib protectors. Leave the heat on low while you are gone to also prevent freezing pipes. {Do you have a Nest thermostat? You can control temperature from a distance with that!}

Step 6: Ask someone to check your house periodically while you are gone.  Show where the thermostat is to ensure the heat is always on in the winter.  Show where the water main is located in case a pipe leaks or bursts.  The water main shut-off valve is usually in a home’s basement, garage or outdoors near the foundation.

Step 7: Turn off the water at the main if there is no one to check your house. Drain the pipes to keep them from bursting in freezing weather by running the water and flushing the toilets after you shut off the water. Leave the cupboards under sinks open while you are gone to allow warm air to circulate around the pipes.

We hope these tips make you feel more comfortable when traveling to your warm weather destinations this winter!

 

Getting your Home ready to sell Checklist

Here in Minnesota, we aGetting your Home ready to sellre slowly nearing Spring and that means that the hot spring real estate market is just around the corner.  The Parade of Homes will be starting in February and that is typically when people start to consider if they want to sell their home!  Selling your home is definitely one of the most stressful life events one goes through as an adult!  Anything that you can do to make that process more simple, is always welcome!

Since we know how stressful this can be firsthand, having all gone through it ourselves at least once, we sat down with Real Estate expert, Sara Anderson of Keller Williams Preferred Realty, and are doing a new video series sharing her knowledge and advice on how to best handle the home selling process!

Also, as part of our series with Sara, she is graciously giving away a free Home Staging Consultation with her expert Stager ($200 value)!  You do not need to be considering selling to use her service, she is great at giving paint color advice, where to put your furniture, or how to make simple updates to any room in your home!

How to Enter: Simply request our Free Home Selling Checklist here: https://mysentinels.com/home-selling-checklist-download/ and you will be automatically entered!  We will announce the winner on our blog here after our video series concludes.

Here is Part 1 of our video series!  We will share each video for the next few weeks here on our blog, but you can also always view the series on our YouTube Channel as well as on our social media.

New Year Checklist

 

It’s here! A new year, a new chapter, a new beginning. And how does this affect the insurance world, you ask? This is the perfect time to get all your ducks in a row with your insurance policies.

Let’s start with your homeowner’s policy. Your insurance agent would need to know about any updates in your home.  Did you finish your basement? Did you re-do your kitchen? Maybe you got a security system, a big screen tv, or added a pool. Regardless how big or small, these are things that you need to get noted on your policy.  Your policy then will have the correct value listed so you can get the coverage you need.

 

Next up, did your husband give you a ring upgrade for Christmas? Or maybe you inherited some jewelry or a coin collection. These things need to have a separate policy from your homeowners’ policy and you want to make sure they are insured should something happen to them!

Lastly, your auto policy or policies.  Maybe you have a new driver in your home or have added some additional drivers.  Make sure your agent knows about all the latest developments on that front as well.

Can you see how it’s best to check in at least yearly with your agent?  They can ask numerous questions that will refresh your memory of any changes in your life.

Feel free to reach out to see if there are any things we can help you with, we are here to help!

Sentinel Assurance {651-237-5180}

 

 

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