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How do I know if an insurance company is good or bad?

 

Is this insurance company reputable-

Not too long ago, we gave you tips on how to find the right insurance agent, but we realize that when you go to an independent insurance agency, such as ours, you are getting a number of different insurance policy options from various insurance carriers. How do you know if an insurance company is good or bad?

 

We realize that some insurance companies have big, strong brands which speak for themselves. Yet with thousands of insurance carriers in the United States, how do you know if the options you’re getting from your agent is legit? While it’s tempting to make your decisions based on price, there are other things to consider when making a decision on your policy. This becomes even more important the more specific and unique your needs are, whether it’s for your business or personal insurance.

 

Here are 5 things you should consider when evaluating an insurance company:

 

#1: What is the company’s financial strength? Will they be able to pay on my claims?

Use a company rating service like A.M. Best, or Standard and Poor’s to give you an idea of the company’s industry ratings and financial health. A.M. Best is easier to use and it’s free to sign up.

Keep in mind that size of a company isn’t always the best company. The purpose of this exercise is to understand a company’s payability and financial strength which is usually categorized by size.

 

#2: Is the company licensed in your state?

In your case, check with the Iowa Insurance Division to check whether or not a company is licensed. We know this website can be overwhelming, but you can always click on the “Consumer Information” tab which will help you narrow down what you’re looking for, whether it’s to verify a company’s license or look into filed complaints.
 

#3: Does the company have major reported complaints in their claims process? In their customer service?

On top of using your state’s insurance department’s website, you can also check complaints and overall satisfaction with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) or JD Power and Associates. These sites will also help you check a company’s claims payments history and other financial information.

 

#4: Consider a company’s claims process

On top of checking JD Power and Associates for overall customer satisfaction, don’t hesitate to contact the company and ask them how they manage their claims process. At this point, we realize it can be a lengthy and tedious process, but protecting your assets and guarding yourself from liability is just as an involved process as any major purchase in life, if not more. This is especially true when you have complex coverage needs for your unique situation.

 

#5: Take advantage of what an independent insurance agent knows

When you talk to a captive agent (an agent who works for an insurance company), you’ll get information on one company. And we encourage you to speak with a captive agent to get their knowledge as well.
 
A good insurance advisor uses his/her knowledge of different companies and knowledge of their relationships with various companies, to serve your best interest in guiding you through the decision-making process.
 
It’s easy to get stuck on cost and big names. Big insurance brands don’t necessarily mean they are the best for carrying out your claims. But then again, they could very well be the best for your needs. The lesson is: do your due diligence and research the reputation of an insurance carrier. And lastly, don’t forget that an insurance advisor is there to offer you a wealth of advice on different companies.

 


 

 

What affects the cost of my home insurance?

 

house variables to cost

 

One of our goals as an insurance agency is to help you understand the variables that affect the cost of their homeowners insurance and the simple decisions they can make to help lower their cost for coverage.

As always, we cannot stress enough the importance of purchasing the right amount of coverage to realistically cover your home and all your assets rather than simply buying the cheapest policy available.

 

Here are five factors that affect the cost of home insurance:

1 – Size:

Usually, the bigger your home, the more expensive it will be to insure. The types of materials you use to build your home will determine the cost of insurance; the more expensive materials you use, the most costly your insurance.

 

2 – Age of home:

The age of your home can affect the cost of your home insurance because a new home is more likely to be in better shape than an older home. One thing all homeowners can do to keep their insurance cost down is keep your home up-to-date with current electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems. Homes that are built with fire-resistant materials like brick and stone are also less costly  to insure than homes made out of flammable material like wood because of liability.

 

3 – Credit score:

The higher a homeowner’s credit score, the the less likely they are to file an insurance claim. Because of this, homeowners with good credit have cheaper insurance rates.

 

4 – Home Updates:

Updating your home can either do one of two things–boost the value of your home and leave you with insufficient coverage or trigger lower premiums as a reward for reducing risk in your home. When updating your home always check with your insurance agent to make sure your insurance coverage can remain the same.

 

5 – Multi-policy discount:

Bundling your policies can save up to 25% on your homeowners insurance premium. What is bundling? Bundling simply means working with one insurance provider on all your insurance needs for your home, car and life insurance.

 

Homeowners, don’t be afraid to ask questions

Talk to your insurance agent to be sure that you are getting the best deal and the best coverage for your unique needs. Together you can work to figure out what home insurance package is best for you and whether or not they are able to find you any savings. Your agent may also have additional simple tips or tricks you can do as a homeowner to save money on your home insurance.

 


 

 

Keokuk Local Business Highlight: Korte Accounting

 

korte tax and accounting

 

I first met Carol Korte owner of Korte Tax and Accounting when we started doing business together.  Carol and her team have been doing my accounting for several years now and our working relationship has blossomed into a great friendship. She provides a lot of great financial services to local businesses in Keokuk, which is why  I’m happy and excited to share her business and the services they offer.

 

This month our small business highlight is Korte Tax & Accounting!

 

Meet Carol Korte of Korte Accounting

Carol KorteCarol Korte started Korte Tax and Accounting with her business partner Mary Ellen Pfeifer back in 2001. “We started out working together and had a great business. When she retired in April of 2011, I purchased half of the businesses and since then it has been owned and operated by me.”

 

Korte Tax and Accounting consists of a staff of between 3-5 people depending on the time of year, and specializes in tax return preparation. They also provide year-round services to a variety of clients in Keokuk, like payroll, financial reports, monthly accounting and tax returns for estates and trusts. Their year-round availability is what sets Korte Tax and Accounting apart from big box tax businesses like H&R Block. “We are available year round, have a great office staff and everyone here is helpful. I think that’s what our customers appreciate about us.”

 

Loving Keokuk

Carol and her husband moved to Keokuk back in 1990 when her husband was offered a job in the area. They decided to stay here because they immediately loved the community and have since raised both of their daughters in Keokuk.

 

“We love the friendly people and the great friends we have made here. Plus, we love the river,  it’s gorgeous. We used to live near St. Louis where the river was nicknamed the ‘muddy Mississippi’ so when we moved here we immediately fell in love with the beauty of the river. We’ve made great friends here.” Carol also offers her financial knowledge to the Keokuk community and serves as treasurer for the Keokuk Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Keokuk Area Habitat for Humanity.

 

Sharing Keokuk business and supporting the local economy

I’m happy to share the story of Korte Tax and Accounting because it’s been a pleasure to work with Carol and her team for the past few years. They are a very attentive, personable staff that’s helped me with all my tax and accounting related issues the past few years; it’s been a big stress reliever to know I have a local accounting resource that has my best interests in mind. Plus, I am always excited to share a local business that does great work for the community and the local economy.

Learn more about Carol and Korte Tax and Accounting on their website!

 


 

 

What happens to my homeowners insurance when my mortgage is sold?

 

homeowners insurance loan transfer

 

It can be alarming when a lender sells or transfers your loan to another bank or mortgage company, but there is nothing to worry about.

 

But what does this mean for you and your homeowners insurance? All it means is a different lender will be taking your payments, paying your insurance, handling your account and answering any questions you have.

 

Transfers like this are very common (and legal) in the mortgage and insurance industries. Whether or not your servicing is sold has nothing to do with the quality of your loan or your payment history. Of course, you are always welcome to check in on the details of your loan with your lender to ensure the change has not affected your loan or insurance.

 

Typically, here is what will remain unchanged:

  • The original terms and conditions of your mortgage
  • The interest rate and duration of your loan will not change on fixed rate loans
  • The payment you make should stay the same or on the same schedule

 

What happens to my insurance policies and taxes if my home loan is sold?

If your loan is sold to another lender and you receive a notice that either your insurance or taxes are due, call your new servicer and make sure they have all the correct information on file. If you have a question after the transfer has taken place, contact your new service provider even if your old service provider was the one who collected the funds for your insurance or tax payment.

  • Life & Disability Insurance: Some mortgage companies offer to escrow life or disability insurance that would pay off your mortgage in case of a death or make payments in case of a disability. If you have these policies, your old servicer should inform you of what effect the transfer of servicing will have on this insurance coverage and what action you may need to take to maintain coverage.
  • Flood and hazard insurance: It is the responsibility of the old servicer to provide the insurance agent or company with a notice of transfer. The beneficiary is able to be transferred from one company to the other, but it’s smart to double-check that this has happened. It’s important to check that the beneficiary is transferred to ensure that in the event there is a claim, the check will be send to the correct servicer.

 

Lenders change

Changes happen, but that’s okay! If your home insurance or loan is sold to another financial institution don’t stress out because typically nothing will change for you. Of course, if you have any questions about your mortgage or insurance contact your lender or insurance agent directly for answers.

 


 

 

How to find the right insurance agent

 

how to find the best agent

 

Navigating the insurance industry can be difficult. There are a lot of options that can make the decision-making process confusing and there are a lot of resources, agents and insurance companies, to make it hard to find the perfect one for your needs.

 

However, with the proper precautions and research you can weed out the options that aren’t right for you and work your way to your perfect insurance solution.

 

Here are some tips to finding the perfect insurance agent:

  • First learn the different types of insurance agents and brush up on your insurance knowledge in order to be educated on terms and types of policies that are available. There are three types of insurance agents:

#1) Independent agent: An independent agent has contacts with several different insurance companies and earns a commission from the insurance company.

#2) Captive agent: A captive agent is an insurance agent that writes exclusively with one company and earns a commission from the insurance company.

#3) Insurance broker: For insurance for a small business, owners may choose an insurance broker. An insurance broker represents your company in the local insurance market to find you the best coverage for the best possible price.

  • Not all insurance companies use agents to sell their products. You can choose to do business directly with some insurance companies, which can be cheaper because the company doesn’t have to pay the agent a commission, but you will be limited to that company’s offerings, which may or may not offer you the best coverage for the right budget.
  • Ask around and find out why your colleagues enjoy working with their agent. Are they friendly? Are they knowledgeable? How do they handle a claim?
  • Do some research on the internet for the insurance coverage you think you need. Larger, more reputable companies will show up in the search results first.
  • Talk with other small business owners or your local trade associations for their advice on insurance needs.
  • Have conversations with prospective agents and remember that just because you ask for a quote does not mean you have to work with them. Your initial interactions with them is your chance to learn how they work.
  • Many agents and brokers will have letters behind their names on their business cards, ask them what these letters mean and what they had to accomplish to earn the credentials.
  • Make sure the agent and the company they are writing your policy with are licensed in your state. You can check company licensing information on the NAIC Consumer Information Source or by calling your state insurance department.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask a prospective agent to provide references.
  • Research and ask for referrals for the perfect insurance agent.

 

It’s important to take the time to do you research and ask for referrals for insurance agents because if you have to file a claim, having a knowledgeable and reliable insurance agent can make a huge difference.

 

Take the time to learn about their services, ask for references and experience what it’s like to work with them. This way, you will feel comfortable and confident knowing that the agent you selected is qualified and will provide you with top-notch customer service.

 


 

 

What the hail?

What the hail-!

Since we had it pretty bad this last month, here’s a quick list of how to identify hail damage and what you should do.

Look for:

  • Roof damage done by trees
  • Dents, cracks, and breaks in windows, panels, and doors on your cars and house
  • Damages on home appliances located outdoors such as AC unit

What to do after you identify damages:

  • Take pictures of the damage
  • Contact your local agent for contractor recommendations to fix repairs
  • Be sure you keep all your receipts for claims purposes
  • Always ask questions to understand you coverages and steps of action

 

If you need more information, or feel like you had been under covered, don’t hesitate to call our team on our toll free number: (844) 272-3420.

 


 

 

What’s the difference between Replacement Cost and Market Value?

 

actual cash value and replacement cost explained

 

When home market values drop, it’s not uncommon for us agents to get concerned homeowners who ask why their house is being insured for more than it’s worth.

 

“It doesn’t make sense that my 20-year old home should be insured for $300,000.”

 

Well the fact of the matter is that most homeowners will miss the difference between the Replacement Cost and the Market Value of the home. They are two very different considerations. Let’s take a closer look.


Market Value of your home

The market value of your home is the value that is determined by a real estate appraisal that has everything to do with the overall economy, the property values in your location, the condition of your home, the type of materials used in your home, and how much it’s worth in the market. It has nothing to do with how much it would cost to rebuild the home in case of some damage.

 

Replacement Cost

The replacement cost is appraised by someone associated with the insurance company which accounts for the cost of replacing or rebuilding the entire damaged house. Meaning the total cost of labor, activities, and materials to put the structure back to the way it was before the damage. This would include costs related to clearing and cleaning up the damage -activities that come before actually rebuilding the structure.

 

Let’s say it will cost $200,000 to rebuild your home. Even though your home’s market value will vary between locations, the cost to rebuild your home will still be $200,000 or remain relatively the same, given the accessibility of standard building materials. So it’s not so much the market value that drives the cost to rebuild your home, but the materials and labor.

 

Remember that Insurance is a Contract

A homeowners insurance policy is a financial guarantee to a homeowner to help rebuild the damaged home for covered perils.

 

For this reason, insurance companies will base the cost of your insurance premium on the replacement cost of your home, and not the market value. Oftentimes, insurance companies require that your insurance covers at least 80% of the replacement cost of your home in order for them to fully cover your replacement costs.

 

So if your home replacement cost is $100,000. You will have to get an $80,000 policy so your insurance will cover the entire cost to rebuild your house.  

 

Remember that the insurance company (NOT your agent) determines your premium

Agents collect all the necessary information from the homeowner, but the company calculates the cost of your premium. Every company will have a different formula for valuating your cost, but your agent will be the expert on helping you choose which insurance option to choose based on your situation.
The important thing to know is that you are insuring your home based on the cost it would rebuild the structure of your house, independent of the market price, your mortgage, or property values.

 


 

 

Why is my homeowners insurance more expensive than my neighbors?

 

neighbors

It’s a great question and it’s not uncommon to find a similar looking house that cost less to insure. We work to educate all our clients about the variables that affect the cost of their homeowners insurance. We also work to inform our clients about the simple decisions they can make that can help lower the cost of their insurance.

 

The most important thing to remember, however, is to make sure that you purchase enough insurance to realistically cover your home and all your assets, rather than purchasing the cheapest policy available. This is important because if you purchase insurance coverage that doesn’t completely cover your home, you may end up paying for repairs and replacements out of your pocket in the event of an accident.

 

Here are 7 things that can affect the cost of your home insurance:

 

1. Age of home

The age of your home can affect the cost of your home insurance because a new home is more likely to be in better shape than an older home. One thing you can do as a homeowner is keep your home, new or old, up to date with current electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems. Also, homes that are constructed with fire-resistant materials like brick and stone are cheaper to insure than homes made out of flammable material like wood.

 

2. Size

Usually, the bigger your home, the more expensive it will be to insure. The types of materials you use to build your home will determine the cost of insurance as well. The more expensive materials you use, the most costly your insurance.

 

3. Discounts for updates

Updating your home can either do one of two things–boost the value of your home and leave you with insufficient coverage or trigger lower premiums as a reward for reducing risk in your home. For example, a new roof can cut your premiums by 10 to 20 percent.

 

4. Claim history

Homeowners who file frequent claims pay higher rates for homeowners insurance.

 

5. Multi-policy discount

Bundle your policies to save up to 25% on your homeowners insurance premium. Bundling means working with one insurance provider on all your insurance needs for your home, car and life insurance.

 

6. Marital status

If your marital status changes, it’s important to tell your insurance advisor immediately. Your agent will review your policy with this new information to make sure your policy information and coverage are up to date. You may need less coverage if divorced, or more coverage if recently married.

 

7. Credit score

The higher a homeowner’s credit score, the lower their risk level and the less likely they are to file an insurance claim. Because of this, homeowners with good credit have cheaper insurance rates.

 

It never hurts to ask about your homeowners insurance cost

The 7 factors listed above are just a few of many things that play a part in the cost of your insurance. Talk to your insurance agent (844-272-3420) to be sure that you are getting the best deal and the best coverage for your unique needs. After all, it never hurts to ask about saving money!

 


 

 

Does homeowners insurance cover my dog?

 

rottweilerDogs are often treated like a member of the family. As “man’s best friend,” they provide comfort, companionship and love.

 

Unfortunately, no matter how well-trained or loving your dog may be, it’s possibly for an accident like a dog bite or other dog-related damages to occur.

 

As the dog owner you have “assumptive liability,” which means if your dog causes harm to someone or something you are 100% responsible and must cover the damages.

 

Are dog owners covered for any incidents or damages their dog may cause?

 

Including dogs in your homeowners insurance is possible and important because of the risk that dogs pose. However, not all insurance companies may cover dogs and some may deny coverage for specific breeds so it takes a little extra research when looking for insurance providers.

 

Spending the extra time to ensure your dog is covered in your homeowners insurance is necessary because if your dog isn’t covered, you will have to pay for future dog-related damages out of your own pocket.

 

How do I know if my homeowners insurance will cover my dog or not?

One thing to note when searching for insurance companies is some companies will not insure dogs breeds that tends to be more aggressive or territorial. To be sure, ask your agent if they have any breed restrictions.

 

Here is a list of dogs that most insurance companies will not insure:

  • Akitas
  • Doberman Pinschers
  • German Shepherds
  • Great Danes
  • Pit Bulls & Staffordshire Terriers
  • Presa Canarios
  • Rottweilers
  • Siberian Huskies
  • Wolf-hybrids
  • What if I don’t tell my insurance company about my dog?

 

Some homeowners may hide the breed of their dog from their insurance agent out of fear the agent will deny them coverage. While this may seem like a good idea, if there is an accident your insurance company may deny you any claims because you weren’t up-front about your dog’s breed; meaning you will be stuck with the cost of any damages or lawsuits related to the incident.

 

Avoid this potentially expensive situation by being upfront with your insurance company. If one company will not cover your dog, there will be another insurance company that can offer the complete homeowners insurance coverage you are looking for.

 

Add “man’s best friend” to your homeowners insurance

 

Dogs of all shapes and sizes can be the perfect companion, however, no matter how loving or well-trained your dog is, they still come with risks. Always tell your insurance agent what kind of dog you have and double-check that your dog is covered in your homeowners insurance policy. If your current insurance provider will not cover your dog, then keep looking for another company that will cover your beloved pet.

 

Including your dog in your homeowner insurance policy protects you, your pocket book and ensures coverage of any future dog-related accidents.

 


 

 

Keokuk Business Highlight: Cramer Real Estate

 

Each month we are going to feature a local business in Keokuk for delivering outstanding services to the community. We are proud to work, or network with these businesses and would like to share our experiences with them, with you.

 

Keokuk Business Highlight

 

It’s hard for me to remember the exact moment or place where I met Vicki Briscoe, owner of Cramer Real Estate as she’s always out and about in the community. But ever I since I met her I’ve been impressed with her work ethic and the real estate services she provides. We decided to partner together on her business and personal insurance policies and she has been a pleasure to work with.

 

This month I am excited to share the story and services of Cramer Real Estate, owned and operated by Vicki Briscoe in Keokuk.

 

About Cramer Real Estate

 

Cramer Real Estate has been a family-operated business since 1972 and Vicki Briscoe has been involved at the company since 1974! It’s safe to share she nearly been there since the beginning. She began working in real estate as a secretary with Cramer Real Estate and then continued to move into various positions around the office as her experience grew and she got her real estate license. Soon she was promoted to office manager and eventually became an owner five years ago. She’s happy to keep the family-business going and currently gets to work with both her son and daughter-in-law and a few other employees that feel like family, having been with the business for over 25 years.

 

Making Keokuk real estate down-to-earth

What makes Cramer Real Estate unique is the home-like feeling every person who walks through their door receives. They are a down-to-earth group that strives on providing real estate services to people of all backgrounds and homeowners of all budgets.

 

They don’t specialize in a particular type of real estate and can handle residential, commercial, and agricultural properties, as Vicki put its they are a “jack of all trades.” They are members of the Keokuk Area Multiple Listing Service, Keokuk board of Realtors, Iowa Association of Realtors and the National Association of Realtors.

 

Staying and supporting the Keokuk community

Vicki has been working and living in Keokuk all her life and her favorite part of being here is her family. “I have four grandkids, they are all teenagers and two are graduating this year,” Vicki shared.

 

While Vicki enjoys her downtime with her family after work, many of the Cramer Real Estate employees volunteer with various organizations throughout Keokuk. Two of her sales team members are auctioneers and enjoy providing their auctioneer services at a lot of charity auctions; one employee is on the Keokuk Library Board and another employee is on the Arts and Cultural Board.

 

Keeping Keokuk local

It’s so exciting to meet and learn about the different family run businesses in Keokuk. The amount of successful local businesses here just goes to show how supportive our community is  and that makes me proud to live and work in Keokuk. If you ever see Vickie out and about be sure to say hello, or check them out for your next real estate needs!

 


 

 

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