4 Things to Consider when Insuring a Second Home

Everyone loves vacation. But, vacationing in your own seasonal home? Even better.

MN Rental property insurance

However, there’s a lot to consider when it comes to protecting your investment in a vacation home, and you definitely want to protect it. We here at Sentinel Assurance Group can help by making sure you have the insurance coverage you want.

To that end, here are four things that may impact the coverage you choose and how much you’ll pay for it:

  • Separate Policy: Your seasonal home won’t be part of your primary property policy. It needs its own policy, and you can expect it to be similar to the one for your primary residence. However, you do need to watch out for “named perils” coverage, under which your policy explicitly lists the perils it will cover. If a peril isn’t listed, no coverage. We typically steer homeowners away from this type of coverage, in favor of broader coverage.
  • Location and Occupancy: The “where” of your vacation home is no doubt among the primary reasons why you bought it. But, it will also impact your insurance costs. Rural areas are hard for emergency responders to reach, and waterfront homes are prone to flooding. These added risks can mean added insurance costs, such as the need for a separate flood policy. If the home is unoccupied or rented for much of the year, there are even more insurance considerations.
  • Personal Property: Establishing and maintaining a separate inventory of the things you keep at your vacation home will help you select an appropriate level of personal property coverage. If it’s filled with expensive skiing and snowboarding gear, for example, you may need increased coverage or to schedule some of the more valuable items separately.
  • Extra Liability Protection: If you plan to regularly host guests at your summer or winter retreat, you should consider an umbrella policy, which will help to increase your liability limits in case someone is seriously injured on your property. This can go for invited and uninvited guests alike.

We know you want to relax and enjoy your chosen spot in the sun – or snow. Having the right insurance coverage helps you do just that, so give us a call and let us help.

Did you know that we are licensed in many states outside of Minnesota? We are licensed in Arizona, California, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa & Indiana! If you have a rental property in any of these states, we would love to help you find the right coverage for it!

So You Need (or Want) to Take a Defensive Driving Course

Whether you were caught speeding (or worse), you’re looking for a discount on your car insurance, or you simply want to be a better driver, there are a wide range of defensive driving and driver improvement courses available here in Rosemount and the Twin Cities metro these days and many can be done virtually!

But, which is right for you? Here are five tips to help you decide:

1. Check with your state or municipality. If you’re taking training to avoid a traffic infraction, not just any course will do. You’ll need to take an approved course – ask for a list before signing up.

2. Check with your insurer. The same goes if you’d like to potentially save on your car insurance. Your carrier may only offer a car insurance discount for completing certain courses. Also ask how much your discount will be — this will help when it comes time to choose a course.

3. Choose the type of course. There are online and classroom options, typically ranging from 4-12 hours depending on the course material. And, there are advantages to each. Online courses offer convenience (and sometimes a lower cost), while in-person settings can provide more interaction.

4. Determine how much you want to spend. If you’re trying to avoid a ticket (and a potential increase in your insurance premiums), the cost might not be much of an issue. If you’re taking a course to receive an insurance discount, however, make sure the total discount you’ll receive is greater than the cost of the course.

5. Check out the reviews. Online review sites, such as Yelp, can show you what others thought of a course. Keep in mind, people who felt “forced” to take a course might have a biased opinion, especially compared to someone who took the course willingly. No matter why you’re considering a defensive driving course, we’re happy to help you weigh the pros and cons. The biggest pro being, once you complete your training, you’re likely to be a little more careful the next time you get behind the wheel. And, that always pays off!

Here in Minnesota, St. Cloud State University offers some great in person and virtual class options. You can check them out here: https://www.stcloudstate.edu/continuingstudies/mhsrc/55-plus/classroom.aspx

Once you’ve completed your course, don’t forget to let us know so we can be sure to add it to your policy for your discount!

After School Safety Tips for Parents & Kids

This week marks the week that all the kids and teachers head back to school here in Rosemount, MN! You’ve likely already reviewed the basic safety tips for kids who walk or bus to and from school.

Those tips, of course, are:

  • Walk with a buddy
  • Stay in well-lit areas
  • Never accept a ride with strangers
  • Once home, lock the door and don’t let anyone in

However, Dr. Michele Borba, author of The Big Book of Parenting Solutions, urges you not to overestimate your kids’ safety smarts. Kids under 10, for example, may not grasp the concept of crossing a street safely, she says.

She suggests teaching them: “Stop. Left. Right. Left.” Meaning that children should, “stop at the curb, look left, right, then left again before crossing, and keep looking as they cross.”

Another thing kids need to know, says Borba, is how to ask for help. Have kids practice saying, “I need help,” out loud and instruct them to “find a uniformed employee, a police officer or a woman, preferably with a child,” when they need assistance, she says.

Once home, kids will likely use the Internet, so be sure to discuss digital safety too.

Staying Safe Online

Here at the office, we have middle school and high school kids at our homes. So, staying safe online is a top priority in our personal households.

Internet safety advocate Sue Scheff, author of Wit’s End and Google Bomb, says that, “we need to put parental controls/security measures on computers and cell phones. Unfortunately, these aren’t guarantees, so having a cyber-smart child is your best defense.” 

Teach kids about the dangers of sharing personal information, such as their home address and phone number, online. And about using social media responsibly.

While online, it’s best for kids – and adults – to converse and connect only with people they truly know and trust, to keep their social accounts private and to still be cautious even then. After all, photos and information that go online today will still be there years later, when kids apply for college scholarships and jobs.

Above all, stay involved in your kids’ digital lives. Let them know you’re there for them, always – to talk, not to judge or punish, says Scheff. “Many kids fear having their Internet removed if they tell their parents they are being bullied online,” she says.

So keep the lines of communication open to help keep everyone safe, both in and outside of your home.

We hope your new school year is off to a fantastic start!

When water goes where it shouldn’t!

Even a small leak can become a major problem, so knowing what you’re covered for and how to prevent water damage are equally important. The below tips should help uncover any potential water problems down the road and keep your property dry.

  • Check appliance hoses. Standard hoses are not as durable as they used to be. Replace rubber hoses with steel-braided hoses. This is a low cost fix that can save thousands in water damage.
  • Broken tiles in the shower can allow water to leak into the walls or on the floor. Replace cracked tiles and re-grout when needed.
  • Run dishwasher and washing machine only when you are home. If a leak occurs, you can turn the appliance off right away.
  • When on vacation, turn off the main water supply to your house.
  • Keep storm drains near your house clear of leaves.
  • Install a gutter guard. This can prevent a rooftop disaster caused by drain clogs, and also prevents flooding by water that isn’t carried away from the house.
  • Install a water pressure gauge. An inexpensive gauge can prevent damage caused by water pressure that’s too high. Pressure should be between 60 and 80 PSI.

Many of the insurance carriers we work with offer Water Leakage & Seepage coverage. Contact us today for a free insurance review to see if your current coverage is adequate!

7 Tips to Help Keep Student Athletes Safe

As parents of athletes ourselves, safety of our kids is always just as important as the memories they are making on the field! We know high school sports here in Rosemount are starting up again for fall and your household may be one of the millions this fall in which student athletes are dreaming of victory on their school playing fields. Of course, we here at Sentinel Assurance Group want to see them succeed, but we also want them to be safe.

Rosemount Irish football team

So, here are seven tips for students, parents and school staff to keep in mind as the new season gets underway:

  1. Start off on the right foot: All athletes need a preseason physical and should share any medical conditions, such as sickle cell trait, with coaches. And, parents, don’t forget to provide your contact information and permission for emergency medical care.
  2. Think about nutrition: A healthy diet offers plenty of complex carbohydrates, plus moderate amounts of protein, salt, sugars and sodium. Keep fat, saturated fat and cholesterol to a minimum.
  3. Be smart about injuries: Athletic trainers and consulting physicians, not coaches, should decide whether athletes continue playing following an injury. Athletic staff needs to know how to use defibrillators and keep them nearby during both practice and games. Finally, athletes should always speak up about and seek medical attention for such symptoms as dizziness, memory loss, lightheadedness, fatigue or imbalance after a hit in the head or a fall. In most cases, they should not rejoin practice or play that same day.
  4. Maintain equipment and facilities: Helmets and pads should be properly fitted; gymnastic apparatus well-maintained. Facilities must be kept clean and checked for germs regularly.
  5. Warm up, cool down: Always warm up and stretch before beginning activities. Cool down and stretch when finished, and take plenty of breaks in between.
  6. Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water (costly sports drinks aren’t usually necessary) before, during and after a workout or practice.
  7. Build up a heat tolerance: To avoid heat illnesses, especially in sports requiring protective equipment, start slowly and build up to more intensive training requiring the full gear.

We hope these tips help set up your student athletes for success this season. We’ll be rooting for them! And GO IRISH!

Rosemount Night to Unite

Celebrate Night to Unite With Your Neighbors

In 1984, National Night Out — “America’s Night Out Against Crime” — began as a way to promote crime prevention through neighborhood camaraderie.

Since then, according to the National Association of Town Watch (NATW), the annual event has taken root in tens of thousands of communities across the country, with more than 37 million people taking part in block parties, barbecues, parades, marches and more. It’s all about sending a message to criminals: Our neighborhood is organized, and crime is not welcome here.

On Tuesday, August 2nd, you can join the millions who are committed to making their communities safer by taking part in an existing event or planning your own. Even if you only attend a gathering, you’re still playing a part.

The City of Rosemount is partaking in this event and recommends you register your local neighborhood event so that you can receive a visit from Public Safety officials. You can register your event with the City of Rosemount here. You can find all about Rosemount’s Night to Unite here.

Support the Rosemount Family Resource Center with Donations

As in years past, our Public Safety officials will be collecting donations during their party visits. Learn what the most needed items are in our community. The Rosemount community is incredibly generous. Thank you!

Top 5 food items needed: canned fish/meat, cooking/baking items, rice/pasta/cereal, canned fruits/veggies

Top 5 Personal Care items needed: soaps, diapers/baby wipes, toiletries, feminine hygiene products, cleaning supplies

Planning a Night to Unite Out event

If your area has a neighborhood watch program, check to see if there’s an event already planned. If so, the organizers will be happy to have your support.

If there’s nothing in the works and you want to host your own, decide what’s appropriate for your neighborhood (and manageable for you). Maybe it’s a small ice-cream social or a big barbecue. The possibilities are endless. And be sure to visit your city’s website or Facebook page; many municipalities offer assistance in setting up an event. Some will even arrange to have law-enforcement representatives stop by.

NATW, the organization that started National Night Out, has great resources as well. When you register your event at natw.org, you’ll receive an official organizational kit with guidelines and suggestions.

Of course, you can have an event without registering or checking in with your city. Getting people together and focusing on making your community safer is what’s important.

Quick tips for all National Night to Unite parties

  • Give your guests as much notice as possible.
  • Have name tags for neighbors to fill out and wear; 67 percent of homeowners in a study by Nextdoor and Harris Interactive said knowing their neighbors helps them feel safer.
  • Briefly explain the purpose of Night to Unite and promote neighborhood watch basics, such as reporting suspicious activity to the police, etc.
  • Gather addresses, phone numbers and email addresses of neighbors, and, with their consent, provide a list to everyone later.

Finally, remember to have fun! Yes, the safety aspect of National Night Out is important, but it’s just as vital to get to know your neighbors better and enjoy their company. After all, that’s what building a stronger community is all about.

6 Tips to Keep you Swimming Safely

When the temperature finally heats up in Minnesota, all you can think about is cooling off at the local pool or even at one of our local lakes. Just remember: Where there’s water, there’s risk.

MN Swimming Safety Tips

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t jump in (carefully) and have some fun with family and friends. It just means you should keep these safety tips in mind any time you swim in Minnesota:

  1. Don’t go it alone. Swim only in designated areas, with a lifeguard if possible, and use the buddy system – even adults shouldn’t swim when no one else is around. As for children, they should never be left unattended in or near the water or supervised by another child.
  2. Mind the rules. If an area forbids diving or is closed for swimming, that means it’s unsafe to do so. Save yourself a trip to the hospital and follow all posted rules and warnings.
  3. Keep away from drains. In a pool or spa, a drain’s powerful suction can trap children and adults. Be sure everyone knows to keep their distance. The same goes for riptides and currents if you’re in an open body of water.
  4. Know how to respond. When someone is missing, especially a child, always check the water first. Learn CPR and other skills that can save lives.
  5. Use common sense. Don’t use drugs or alcohol during water activities. Do have life jackets for inexperienced swimmers, and keep plenty of sunscreen and water on hand to help everyone beat the heat.
  6. Alert a lifeguard if you see someone struggling. Alternately, you could throw the person a floating object or reach out with a long object.

With a little caution, and a whole lot of supervision, you can help ensure your day at the pool or lake goes swimmingly. Have fun getting wet!

Car Wash – Preserving Your Car’s Value

Clean Your Way to a Longer-Lasting Car

Motor vehicle corrosion is a billion-dollar problem in the United States, according to the Federal Highway Administration. And, no wonder. Road salt, tree sap, mud, pollution and even dead bugs and bird poop all contribute to a year-round assault on your vehicle here in the Twin Cities, potentially leading to serious damage and pre-mature aging.

Safety is also an issue. Grime across your windshield and windows restricts visibility in all directions, and even a light coating of dust or pollen can impair your vision, especially at night or when driving into the sun’s glare.

Rosemount Car Wash

That’s why we here at Sentinel Assurance Group encourage you to visit your local car wash regularly. Washing your car removes dirt, residues and pollutants that degrade your paint finish and corrode the underlying metal. It’s like anti-aging cosmetics for your automobile!

But, is hand washing at home or visiting a commercial car wash your best bet? While both lead to a clean vehicle, you’ll cut your water usage in half by going to a commercial facility and help keep toxins and soap away from street drains, which can lead to local waterways. As a bonus, some commercial facilities recycle their water. 

No matter which method you choose, these five tips will help you get the most out of your car-cleaning routine:

  1. Wash often. The longer tree sap, dead bugs and other gunk sit atop your paint, the more damage they can cause.
  2. Avoid abrasive soaps, cloths and sponges that can grind dirt deeper into your paint finish.
  3. Wash the undercarriage thoroughly to help prevent rust, especially after driving on road salt in the winter.
  4. Don’t forget the headlights. When you’re driving at night, in the rain or through an unfamiliar neighborhood, you want every lumen of illumination you can muster.
  5. Consider eco-friendly car soaps, such as biodegradable or waterless products, to help lighten the environmental impact of washing your car more often.

And, when you’re all done? Finish up with a good waxing to give your car extra protection and shine.

If you’re in the Rosemount or South Metro area, visit our favorite locally owned, automatic and self-service car wash at Rosemount Car Spa!

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Get the Most out of your RV this Summer

There’s nothing quite like taking a road trip in an RV. Whether you’re headed to somewhere nearby in Minnesota or somewhere across the country this summer, we at Sentinel Assurance Group want you to get the most out of your travels.

But before we get to travel tips and how to find the best places to stay, we want to remind you about safety. As with any vehicle, maintenance is important. After all, even though you can hang out in your RV if it breaks down, who wants to spend their road trip on the side of the road? We encourage you to visit one of our carrier’s sites: www.safeco.com and click on the “Insurance 101” tab. The “Consumer Tips” section has a wealth of information on RV safety.

With that said, it’s time to hit the road!

General travel tips

  • Have a plan (and maps or a GPS). One of the reasons you’re traveling in an RV, no doubt, is for the adventure. But while the freedom to go wherever you want can be exciting, getting lost isn’t (at least for most people). You’ll cut down on frustration if you know where you’re headed.
  • Pack the right things. We’ve all forgotten to pack something while going on vacation. And buying new items at your destination can add up. So make a packing list, and remember that it’s not all about clothes and toiletries. Don’t forget your favorite road music or DVDs to watch at night. And if you’ve got kids with you, be sure to pack games and other things to entertain them.
  • But don’t pack everything. Of course, just because you have an RV doesn’t mean you should bring all of your possessions on vacation with you.
  • Be prepared for anything. You should have a first-aid kit in the RV, as well as some tools for smaller repairs. And if you’re traveling a long distance, why not bring some local items from your hometown to give as gifts when you make new friends?
  • Limit the driving. It’s tiring enough driving a car hundreds of miles a day, let alone an RV, so give yourself plenty of rest and don’t overdo the driving.

Want to bring your car?

Taking a car along with your RV can give you a lot more flexibility on your vacation. But it can also make the driving more stressful, so keep that in mind. According to towingworld.com, there are three main options to bring your car with you:

  • A trailer: This of course, allows you to raise the car completely off the ground. They’re generally more expensive than other options, but keep wear and tear to a minimum for your car.
  • A tow dolly: This lifts the front wheels of the car off the ground. They’re useful if you can’t tow your car with all four wheels down, and can be easily used for front-wheel drive vehicles without another device to make it towable.
  • A tow bar: The most popular choice, because of its convenience. It’s the option with the least amount of equipment, and usually the least expensive; it also takes up less space than dollies and trailers. Note that not all cars can be towed with four wheels on the ground, so check your manufacturer’s recommendations.

    Where to stay

    If you’re looking for a campground or RV park, you’re in luck – there are seemingly endless options across the country. But how do you know which ones are good or safe? Plenty of online resources have information on various parks, including the ones below:

    Wherever you stay, you’ll want to take some steps to prevent crime. RVs can be inviting targets for thieves, because they usually contain more valuables than cars. Always lock your doors when you’re away from the RV and keep valuables out of sight or locked away. If you’re parked for the night in a non-camping area, such as a parking lot, try to stay in a well-lit area and keep the door facing the light. Finally, try to make fuel or convenience store stops during the day, if possible.

     You’ve got a summer full of fun ahead in your RV. We wish we were coming with you! Here’s hoping for smooth and safe travels. And don’t forget, we can help you get the right insurance coverage for your RV (and everything else). Give us a call today!

     

     

     

    7 Things Nobody Tells you About Homeowners Insurance

    Congrats! You’re a homeowner. Or, maybe you’re touring houses for sale and about to be a homeowner. Either way, welcome. Welcome to a stream of never-ending projects, fun surprises and a place to call your own. We all know houses keep us busy, so it makes sense that your homeowners insurance isn’t something you dwell on.  And besides the initial set up of your homeowners insurance, why should you dwell on it?

    Well, in some cases you may be underinsured or even missing out on potential discounts! So, we’ve rounded up seven things you may not know about your homeowners insurance coverages:

    1. It’s a good idea to start with an independent insurance agent

    Buying a bath mat online is convenient, but buying insurance is a bit more complicated than a bath mat. A local independent insurance agent will help you with an “insurance checkup”. This will evaluate any home updates and coverages to help you avoid potential gaps. They can also help you compare quotes from multiple insurance carriers to fit your specific situation.

    2. Your homeowners insurance policy may not cover water damage

    This can be devastating! Most polices only cover certain types of water damage. Water damage that originates from inside your house or from a storm-created opening is typically covered by homeowners insurance. However, this often excludes floodwater, broken water mains, and other water-related damages. Before storm season hits, it’s important to know what’s covered and if you should consider purchasing separate flood insurance.

    3. Your policy has exclusions and special limits, and you need to know what they are

    It’s easy to buy and forget about your insurance. But, every insurance policy has exclusions, like floods and earthquakes. Your policy may also include special limits on items such as jewelry, trailers and watercraft on your property. Exclusions are listed throughout your policy. A good way to understand your policy’s exclusions is to review it with your local independent insurance agent. They can break it down for you to make sure you avoid potential gaps in your coverage.

    4. Tell your agent about updates and changes to your house

    You buy your house, you buy insurance, they send you a packet, and then you don’t think about it again. But, now let’s say you’ve lived in your home for a few years. Maybe you renovated your kitchen, or put on a new roof. Or, maybe you added a central alarm system. Updates like this can change the value and rebuilding cost of your home. If you don’t update your policy and tell your agent, you may be underinsured and might be missing out on a possible discount for your new alarm system.

    Coverages like guaranteed home replacement cost may be greatly effected as time goes on. Some coverages may even be void.

    5. Maintaining a personal home inventory may help your claims process

    The last thing you want to think about after your home suffers a devastating loss is, what did I have in there? An easy way to create and maintain a personal home inventory is to take pictures of each room of your house every year. This may help jog your memory about what was inside your house. This is important to keep updated since homes seem to accumulate more and more things as time goes on…

    6. Your coverage amount may not be the same as the cost of your house or the market value

    There is a big misconception that your homeowners insurance coverage amount is the same as what you paid for your house. That is wrong! If your house needs to be rebuilt you may need coverage for debris removal, materials, and labor. Which, in some cases, exceeds the amount you paid for your house or the market value. It’s also important to note that both the market value of your home and the cost to rebuild will vary greatly.

    7. Cheapest is not always best

    Comparison shopping is in our blood. And, if you’re a self-proclaimed frugal shopper you’ve likely found that sometimes, you get what you pay for. Similarly, when comparing insurance quotes the cost may not be the best indicator of the best fit for you. You need to ask yourself is the insurance company financially sound? What is their claims service like? Are they a stable company?

    We know owning a home can certainly be hard, but we don’t think your homeowners insurance should be. To learn more about our homeowners insurance coverages, give us a call today!

    The content of this article is from Auto-Owners Blog.