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5 Things You Need to Know as a First-time Homebuyer in Keokuk

 

first-time homebuyers

If you’re a first-time homebuyer in Keokuk or the surrounding area, we know some of the most common mistakes that others in your position have made when making their first big investment. We put a list together so you can consider each of these 5 things before buying a house.

 

#1) Affording a home vs affording a mortgage

Most first-time homebuyers jump at the opportunity at homeownership the moment they qualify for a mortgage. But if you’re new at this, understand that there’s a difference between affording a home and affording a mortgage. Just because you can afford a mortgage, it doesn’t always mean you can afford to own a home. There’s a whole range of other expenses involved, on top of your mortgage payments which include:

  • Closing costs
  • Homeowners insurance
  • Property taxes
  • Homeowners association dues
  • Utility bills
  • Maintenance

 

Can you afford this long-term? A good rule of thumb for knowing if you’re ready for a mortgage is that your income should be at least 1/3 of the mortgage. Does that mortgage add up to your long-term capability to own a home?

 

#2) Get pre-qualified before looking for a house

Set your expectations straight from the start. If you’ve bought into the American Dream of owning a home, it can sometimes become an emotional roller coaster. It’s easy to get attached to a house while house-hunting. And while it’s good practice to shop around and experience different properties, what first-time homebuyers should do is get pre-qualified for a mortgage. From there, you can know which houses you can realistically pursue.

 

#3) Finances and Savings

If you’re buying a home, you’re well aware of the traditional route of paying down 20% of the mortgage. There are some programs in Keokuk where the required down payment is only 3.5%. Regardless of the down payment requirement, some new homebuyers make the mistake of depleting their entire savings to make a down payment.

 

If you pay less that 20% of the mortgage down payment, you’re required to pay for mortgage insurance. Some buyers prefer to pay the entire 20% of the down payment versus having to pay for mortgage insurance. Not having any savings cushion as a homeowner is very dangerous and would put you in a very delicate situation if you ever encounter any emergencies.

 

Also, during the time of the purchase, don’t make any other loan purchases. Since it takes 30 days for the home purchase to close, any big loan purchase made in that timeframe can affect the closing of your home.

 

#4) Trust the Experts and Ask for References

It’s important to get help from completely independent resources and professionals. Most new buyers are unaware of the difference between a real estate listing agent and a buyer’s agent. Listing agents will only show you what is listed with them, for example, so it’s to the new buyer’s best interest to seek information from independent resources across the board, whether it’s a mortgage lender, lawyer, realtor, or insurance agent. And don’t forget to ask for references.

 

#5) Consider Your Homeowners Insurance Premiums

Homeowners insurance can get complex. It’s good to get an estimate of what your premium might look like. Find a trusted independent insurance advisor and start to create a relationship with one. You can begin to understand the factors that affect homeowners insurance – this can include anything from location, previous claims filed, age of the home, and type of roof.

 

If you’re a first-time homebuyer in Keokuk, congratulations. We know it’s a very exciting time, and you’ve chosen a great community. We want you to be prepared and go through the process with as much as excitement and ease as possible.

 


 

 

Tips for a safe Fall season in Keokuk

fall in keokukSummer is officially over and headed our way is some great fall weather in Keokuk. With fall, however, comes a lot of changes. Kids are back to to school helping sickness spread easily, Halloween is almost here, and the sun sets sooner.

 

Here are five ways to help keep you and your family and friends healthy and safe this fall.

 

  1. Even though it is getting darker sooner, that doesn’t mean your children have to stop playing. Get your kids involved with fun indoor activities, like crafting or building forts, to keep their minds and bodies active. Here are some fun games to play indoors.
  2. Get the flu shot. Regardless of whether you have to drag yourself (or your kids) kicking and screaming into the doctor’s office, go get the flu shot. Also remember to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough and sneeze to prevent spreading germs and always stay home from work if you get sick.
  3. Have a safe and healthy Halloween! If going out at night, be sure to bring a flashlight and try to mostly walk in well lit and populated areas. There are plenty of healthy snacks out there that kids love, so opt for healthy snack to give out, rather than the traditional sugar-filled candy.
  4. Test batteries. With the cold weather comes use of fireplaces. Check and replace your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide monitors at least once a year.
  5. Remember food safety! With food being the main attraction at most get-together in the fall and winter, make sure you clean all surfaces and practice basic food safety rules, like thoroughly washing all items that touch raw chicken.

 

With the right precautions and planning, it’s possible to have happy and healthy fall and winter season. What happens during Fall and Winter in your neighborhood that could use some safety tips?

 


 

 

Small business owners in Keokuk – here’s how to protect your business from fraud

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Keokuk is lucky to have so many successful and dependable businesses. There is no doubt that without trustworthy or hardworking employees, a business in Keokuk could simply not be successful. Because a business is so dependent on employees doing their job, it’s important to put practices in place that help verify the quality of work they are doing, as well as to verify trust.

 

Unfortunately, it isn’t uncommon that business owners experience dishonesty or fraud from their employees. More often than not, employee dishonesty is discovered until it’s too late and the financial cost of fraud has become significant. After all, the average financial loss of a business due to fraud in America is around $145,000. That’s is a significant amount and could potentially put an end to a business, depending on their overall financial stability.

 

Here are four tips to protect your business in Keokuk from fraud:

  1. Create an ethical culture in your office and always encourage employees to speak out if they see something suspicious or wrong. Make it easy for them to come to you with open-door office hours or weekly one-on-one meetings.
  2. Use background checks. Just like a realtor background checks potential tenants, use a background check to show you how stable and responsible your potential employee may be. Financial decisions often reflect life decisions.
  3. You know how much your employee makes. If they suddenly begin living an extravagant lifestyle or come in with clothing or accessories that you know are out of their budget, take a second to have a conversation and ask them about it in a respectful way.
  4. Always divide up financial and accounting jobs. This creates a system of checks and balances so all financial information isn’t kept within one employee. In addition, have meetings to review financial documents and your business financial status.

 

Have you ever experienced fraud from an employee? What other things do you do to ensure your business and employees are honest and trustworthy?

 


 

 

What insurance does my child need for college?

 

insurance for college

 

Preparing for college is nerve-wracking whether your child is headed to University of Iowa or UCLA. There are plenty of worries that come to mind as a parent, from roommates, to food, to whether or not your child will remember how to do laundry. The list goes on.

 

Unfortunately, we have one more thing to add to your list and it is pretty important that you don’t forget it: insurance! It’s often unclear what your insurance covers when it comes to your grown, college-aged children. So here are some important things to consider before sending your child off to college.

Insurance checklist for your college-bound child:

  • Insure your computer, musical instrument, expensive jewelry and any other expensive items your child plans to take with them.
  • Have your child make a list of nearly everything they plan to bring. Having a list of all your child’s important items will help keep track of them and will make filing a claim easier if something is stolen.
  • If your child isn’t bringing a car to school let your insurance agent know, you may qualify for a resident student discounted rate on your insurance. On the other hand, if you child does bring your car, make sure to discuss rules about letting others drive. Any claim made under your insurance, regardless of whether your child was driving or not, will cause an increase in your insurance rate.

 

Preparing for college with the right insurance

Help your child prepare for college by protecting them and yourself financially with the right insurance. After all, there are already too many things to worry and think about with a child away at school, don’t add bad insurance coverage to your list. The only way to know if you have the right coverage is to do your research and ask questions.

 

Talk to your insurance agent to see if there are any other policies you may want to consider adding to your coverage or if there are any discounts you can take advantage of.

 

 


 

 

Do I really need travel insurance?

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Imagine this:

While traveling on your dream vacation to France, your luggage is lost on the flight. Since you only packed light clothing and minimal toiletries, you aren’t too worried–until you realize your iPad and good DLR camera was tucked away in your luggage as well. Considering it a big loss, but nothing life changing, you go on with you trip. Then, when it comes time for your flight back to the U.S., you get a terrible case of food-poisoning and miss your plane, causing a non-refundable $1200 loss.

 

Total in losses? $5000.

While we never want to imagine such a thing happening to any of our friends, clients or family, incidents like the above can happen. Which is why it is important to be prepared with travel insurance. Travel insurance is meant to protect you from unforeseen accidents while traveling, like your flight getting canceled or baggage being lost and whether or not you purchase it depends on a variety of factors.

 

What does travel insurance cover?

  1. Trip cancellation or trip interruption insurance coverage, which reimburses non-refundable travel costs if your trip is cancelled or seriously delayed due to a natural disaster, illness or if the airline goes out of business.
  2. Baggage and personal items coverage can be used in the event someone steals something from your bag or your luggage is lost. Keep in mind most baggage and personal belongings coverage only pay up to $2,000; it’s your homeowners policy that will do a better job of covering your personal property. So in our example above, you would be out $3,000. If you’re looking to protect your belongings, travel insurance can only help to a certain amount.
  3. Emergency medical insurance provides coverage when traveling abroad. Before buying, check with your insurance agent to see if the insurance you currently have will protect you in case there is a health emergency outside of the country.
  4. Accidental death or dismemberment insurance includes coverage if you or a loved one dies on the trip or suffers a life-changing accident. Again, check with your insurance agent as this may already be covered in your personal insurance and may not be needed.

Be prepared for peace of mind!

Having the right insurance protection in place before leaving for your vacation can relieve a lot of worry and stress. Before heading out on your vacation, talk with your insurance agent to see what your current insurance covers and if there are any additional policies you need to purchase.

 


 

 

Do I need rental car insurance on my vacation this summer?

 

vacation car rental insurance

Vacations give your mind a break, but they definitely do not your bank account a break. Here are just a few vacation expenses to plan for:

  • Food
  • Hotel Stays
  • Gas
  • Toiletry Items
  • Tourist related expenses – ie tours, behind the scenes adventures
  • Rentals

 

Now that you have all these expenses added up, do you really want to add rental car insurance to the list?

 

Technically the answer is “yes.” But whether or not you need to purchase insurance from the rental car company depends on two things:

  1. Your personal insurance company, which usually covers a rental car at no cost.
  2.  Whether or not you want to have the EXTRA peace of mind should an accident happen.

 

If you have full coverage on your personal vehicles, your personal auto insurance should extend to your rental car. Full coverage means you have two types of coverages:

  1. Collision coverage (if you wreck your vehicle and it is your fault, your insurance company will fix your vehicle)
  2. Comprehensive coverage (any other loss you may have to your vehicle such as, theft, flood, hitting a deer, etc.)

 

Are there any accidents full auto coverage won’t cover?

Yes, while you may have full auto coverage there are still some instances that will not be covered and will require additional policies.

 

  • Loss of use: Loss of use is simple that, the loss of use of the rental car. If you wreck the car and the accident was your fault, you will be responsible for the lost time and money in which the vehicle is being fixed.
  • Loss of depreciation/value: This is coverage that comes into play in the instance that you wreck the rental car and the value of the car becomes less than before the accident.

 

Before you leave for vacation, decide whether buying rental car insurance is something that needs to be added to your list of expenses. Talk with your insurance agent and review your auto insurance policies to identify any gaps in coverage. This way, you will enjoy your vacation without the worry of rental car coverage and you will avoid any surprise expenses should there be an accident.

 


 

 

Three things small businesses can learn from Chipotle’s mistakes

 

learning from chipotle's mistakes

 

Recently, Chipotle, a national Mexican food restaurant chain, came under attack due to a food borne illness that contaminated their food and caused multiple customers to become extremely sick. While this is a nightmare scenario for any restaurant owner, it’s important to take a look into what went wrong with Chipotle to learn how to prevent any similar situation from happening to your business.

 

Here are three things restaurants can learn from Chipotle’s foodborne illness outbreak.

 

#1 – Make sure you have the right business insurance

 

All restaurants need liability insurance, as well as a few other policies that provide coverage specific to businesses, including standalone foodborne illness coverage and business income coverage.

 

General liability insurance policies cover the restaurant in the event a customer gets sick and decides to sue the restaurant. This insurance will cover doctor’s bills, any time they needed to take off work to recover and any other damages.

 

The standalone food borne illness policy covers loss of income due to the food borne illness outbreak and pays for things like dealing with health departments and hiring public relations to restore your brand.

A business income policy will cover any loss of income your restaurant may experience due to an outbreak at another restaurant related to yours.

 

#2 – Encourage your sick employees to stay home

The chipotle outbreak stemmed from a sick employee that decided to come into work. As a business owner, stress to your employees how important it is for them to stay home when sick. Not only is this important for their health, but it is also important for the health of your entire team and your customers.

 

#3 – Keep your business practices up to date with technology

Everyone is online these days, which is why it’s important to ensure your business is enforcing best practices when it comes to use of the internet and securely storing information. A breach of information can mean that not only your important business information has been hacked, but also the information of all your customers, especially in restaurants where credit cards are ran multiple times a day.

 

Improving your business and learning from Chipotle

While the situation Chipotle experience was devastating for both the restaurant and the customers that became sick, it’s important to learn from the mistakes they made in order to  improve your own business practices. With the right internal policies, insurance and protection, it’s possible to be prepared for unpredictable situations.

 

Talk to your insurance agent to learn about  restaurant business insurance and what you can do to improve your coverage.

 

 


 

 

Homeowners truth: making a claim affects your homeowners insurance rate

 

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Insurance is one of the only products you buy that you hope you’ll never have to use. Not only is dealing with a home repair emotionally draining and a hassle, but homeowners will also have to deal with increases in their insurance premiums each time a claim is made.

 

Here are 4 “truths” regarding what affects the cost of your homeowners insurance premium:

Truth #1

Making insurance claims will raise your insurance premium. Why is this? Insurance companies have a lot of studies and stats that show that after making one home insurance claim, you’re more likely to make a second and third one. Because of this, they will adjust the cost of your insurance coverage to compensate for the future potential risk. Before making a claim, always decide whether making the claim is in your best financial interest, or if it isn’t necessary.

Truth #2

Claims made by previous owners of your home in the past 7 years will affect the rate that you currently pay. Any prior owners’ insurance claims made over the previous 7 years can affect the homeowner insurance rate that you have to pay. Insurer views a property with multiple claims as a higher risk for having more claims in the future, and may charge you more based on that.

Truth #3

Simply talking to your insurance agent or company about a specific damage to your home maybe result in a higher insurance rate. According to an insurers, the fact that you inquired about a loss is an indication that a loss occurred and makes your property appear to be a bigger risk. They can raise your rate at renewal even if you never filed a claim, or if you filed one that was denied.

 

How to avoid this? When speaking with your insurer, always be clear as to whether or not you are making a formal claim or if you are just inquiring about whether or not damage is covered by your policy.

Truth #4

Always request a copy of your home Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE) when buying a home. This report will state whether or not any claims have been filed on the home you are interested in purchasing. You will need to ask the current property owner to request this report, but it is helpful because any claims made by previous owners can affect your homeowners insurance rate.

What homeowners need to know about insurance

In addition to the four “truths” listed above, there are a lot of other factors that contribute to what you pay for your insurance. Talk to your insurance agent if you have any questions regarding your coverage and your rate.

Have you experienced any other instances that raised the cost of your homeowners insurance premium?

 


 

 

Is car insurance tied to the car or the driver?

Imagine these situations two different situations:

car key

 

Situation #1:

You decided to lend your car to a friend whose car is in the auto repair shop. Unfortunately while he is out he gets into a small accident. Everyone involved in the accident was okay, but who is financially responsible for the damages? You (since it is your car) or the friend (since he was driving)?

 

Situation #2:

You rented a car on your most recent vacation to San Diego and get into an accident and you decided to not buy the rental car insurance in order to save some money. Will your car insurance cover the accident? Or should you have opted for the rental car insurance?

 

 

The answers:

 

Situation #1 will pull in your own personal auto insurance; your insurance is tied to the car not the driver. Your friend’s insurance would be pulled in as the secondary coverage for the accident, but there may be a case if the damage is extensive that both affected parties could look to you for financial coverage and damage reimbursement. Unfortunately, if your friend hadn’t asked to borrow your car and still drove it and got in an accident, you may still be responsible for the damage repair and expenses.

 

Situation #2 is a situation that nearly everyone who rents a car hopes will never happen. Car renters often avoid purchasing the rental insurance due to cost, but in some cases this can lead to a very expensive mistake. The good news is that typically most personal auto insurance will follow the driver so at the end of the day if you are an accident you may not need rental car insurance.

 

The loophole here is if the rental car is damaged the rental car company may charge you for loss of use while the vehicle is being repaired which may not be covered by your personal insurance policy. If you are renting a car while traveling for work, be sure to check with your coverage with your employer.

 

Have a great understanding of your coverage

The most important thing is to understand the coverage you have. Whether your auto insurance follows you or your car is a difficult question to answer and isn’t black or white. It’s nearly impossible to memorize all the details of your coverage, have a handle on the main important parts of your coverage and if you need clarification for particular situations where you aren’t sure, ask your agent!

 


 

 

Replacement Cost vs Actual Cash Value

 

photo credits: bogleech.com

*photo credits: bogleech.com

 

One important detail to never lose track of when purchasing home insurance for your new home is how your insurance company will actually reimburse you should you experience a loss. There are two ways: replacement cost or actual cash value.

 

Actual cash value and replacement cost value are two different methods that can be used to calculate how much money you receive if your property is damaged, lost, or stolen.
 

What is actual cost value and replacement cost?

Actual cash value takes into account any depreciation that has occurred over time and replacement cost value is based on the cost to fully replace your property at current value.

 

Some new homeowners may choose to be insured for their homes actual cash value because this option is cheaper, but at the end of the day should they need to make a claim they will have to cover the gap between the cost of repairing the damage and the amount your insurance will pay.

 

Plus, the longer you own your home, the more depreciation becomes an issue and replacement cost coverage becomes more important.

 

For example, if your policy covers your home for its actual cash value, your insurance company will deduct depreciation from your home’s overall value to calculate how much they will pay you. This means that if your home is old it’s actual cash value is going to be significantly less than the amount it will cost to replace it. On the other hand, if you have replacement cost coverage on your home, your insurance coverage will pay what it will cost to repair or replace it without deducting depreciation.
 

How do you know which to buy?

 

New home owners should discuss the pros and cons with their insurance agent to find the coverage that is right for their home and budget. Always keep in mind, the better your home insurance coverage, the less money you will have to pay out of pocket should a disaster strike or accident happen.

 


 

 

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