You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category.
During the summer months in Battle Creek, Michigan we host many balloon events. Often there is competition from entrants not only from all over the U.S., but from other countries as well. As part of the 4th of July festivities , they also feature ‘Balloon Illumes’ where the balloons are lit against the night sky for a few hours to the enjoyment of the spectators. Here is a video I created a few years ago of this:
When one is driving through the Great Smoky Mountains, there is a tremendous amount of wonderful views and scenic places to stop and take a photograph. One of the really unique things about this drive is the tunnels. There are several of them along the journey as one drives from North Carolina to Tennessee. I took this photo as we were emerging from a tunnel along this scenic roadway in September of 2012.
If you have not taken time to really explore Google Maps recently, I thought I would point out an interesting feature that is useful in Real Estate. As a Realtor, I am frequently going to visit houses that I have never seen before, and sometimes in areas I have never been before. Google Maps now has a feature called the ‘Walk-Around Man’. This is new technology within the last few years, so a lot of people are not familiar with it. So, I thought I would show you how interesting this feature is. To begin, go to Google Maps. That address is: http://maps.google.com/maps
When you get there type in an address in the top field. For the sake of example, I used the address of my Real Estate office at Troxel Realty in Battle Creek, Michigan. When you have entered your address, hit enter on your keypad and the map of where you are looking for will show up. Then, look for the little ‘Walkabout man shape’ on the left. I show a yellow arrow on the map here in the picture. Click on the little man, and drag him to where you want to look at on the map. In this case, I moved him on top of the little balloon where my office it.
Once you do that, it will generate a photo of that location. What is really nice about this feature is that you can then use the arrow keys on the photo screen (which I show in the last photo here with yellow arrows) and see a three dimensional view of the area. You can then ‘Walk About’ the streets, and the pictures change and there is some limited zooming abilities. You can also shift angles, and essentially travel the neighborhood. You can check out homes you are interested from a far away place!
So imagine that you never have been to a place, and then you try this feature, you can get an idea of what the area looks like. From the little experimenting I have done with it, I would say the photos are about two to three years old in most areas, but it is still pretty accurate. I played around with this the first time and visited my childhood home, and other places I have lived through the years to see what the neighborhoods look like now. So that is my summary of Google Maps and the ‘Walkabout Man’ feature.
Each spring brings a new round of tulips to usher in the season. This year in Battle Creek, we have been fortunate to now have had an early frost that stunted any of these beautiful flowers, which we have experienced in earlier years. Battle Creek, being in Michigan, in a northern U.S. State has a later spring that the rest of the country usually, but it is here nonetheless. I hope you will enjoy one of these photos I have taken in the past few days.
Article From Houselogic.com
By: G. M. Filisko
Published: August 28, 2009
An annual check-up on your homeowners insurance can result in a healthier policy and a healthier pocketbook.
It’s time for your annual check-up. The good news is that for this one, you won’t have to don one of those revealing hospital gowns-and you may walk away with a healthier pocketbook. We’re talking about a homeowners insurance check-up, a task you should complete once a year, ideally around renewal time. This will ensure your policy still provides the right level of coverage for your family, and your premium isn’t costing you more than it should.
Remember, homeowners insurance is essential. The coverage is designed to protect your home and its contents, as well as shield you from liability for accidents and such on your property. Block out an hour of your time, call an insurance agent, and get answers to these three important questions.
WHAT TYPE OF COVERAGE DO I HAVE?
The most effective type of coverage is known as “replacement cost,” which covers, up to your policy limits, what it would take today to rebuild your house and restore your belongings, says Jerry Oshinsky, a partner at Jenner & Block in Los Angeles who has represented homeowners in litigation against insurers.
“Extended” replacement cost coverage provides protection to your policy limit, say $500,000, and then perhaps another 20% of the cost after that. Percentages vary, but in this example you could recoup up to $600,000 on a $500,000 policy, assuming your losses reach that high. Extended coverage can compensate for any unanticipated expenses like spikes in construction costs between policy renewals. Now harder to find due to the industry shift toward extended replacement coverage, “full” or “guaranteed” replacement coverage covers an entire claim regardless of policy limits.
A less attractive alternative is “actual cash value” coverage that usually takes into account depreciation, the decrease in value due to age and wear. With this type of policy, the $2,000 flat-screen TV you bought two years ago will be worth hundreds of dollars less today in the eyes of your claims adjuster. Kevin Foley, an independent insurance broker in Milltown, N.J., favors replacement cost coverage unless you can save at least 25% on the premium for going with actual cash value coverage instead.
Even if you have replacement cost protection for your dwelling and personal property, don’t assume everything is covered. Structures other than your home on your property-such as a detached garage or swimming pool-require separate coverage. So too do luxury items like jewelry, watches, and furs if you want full replacement cost because reimbursement for those items is typically capped.
HOW MUCH COVERAGE DO I REALLY NEED?
OK, now that you’re clear on what type of policy you have, you need to figure out how much policy(http://www.houselogic.com/articles/homeowners-insurance-are-you-over-or-underinsured/) you truly require in dollar terms. Let’s say you purchased your home five years ago and insured it for $200,000. Today, it’s worth $225,000. Simply increasing your coverage to $225,000 may nonetheless leave you underinsured. Here’s why.
The key to determining how much dwelling coverage you need isn’t the value of your home but the money you’d have to pay to rebuild it from scratch, says Carlos Aguirre, an agent for Liberty Mutual Insurance in Arlington, Texas. Call your local contractors’ or homebuilders’ association and inquire about the average per-square-foot construction cost in your area. If it’s $150 and your home is 2,000 square feet, then you should be insured for $300,000.
There’s no rule of thumb for how much your homeowners insurance should cost. Insurers use numerous factors-age, education level, creditworthiness-to determine pricing, so the same policy could run you more than your neighbor. In recent years the average annual premium(http://www.iii.org/media/facts/statsbyissue/homeowners/) was $804. Oshinsky advises against scrimping on insurance because big increases in coverage probably cost less than you’d think. He recently purchased a liability policy that cost $250 for the first $1 million in coverage. Adding another $1 million increased his premiums only $12.50 more.
HOW CAN I LOWER MY PREMIUMS?
The higher your deductible, the amount you pay out of pocket before coverage kicks in, the lower your premium. Landing on the appropriate deductible level requires remembering that insurance should cover major calamities(http://www.houselogic.com/articles/homeowners-insurance-to-claim-or-not-to-claim/), not minor incidents, says Foley, the independent insurance broker. Most homeowners should be able to absorb modest losses like a broken window pane or a hole in the drywall without filing claims. If you can, then you’re wasting money with a $250 deductible.
Foley’s rule: If you’re a first-time homeowner and don’t have a lot of savings, moving up to a $500 deductible will probably stretch your budget. However, if you live in a ritzy home and drive an expensive car, then you should be able to afford a $1,000 deductible. In Milltown, N.J., for example, the premium for a $200,000 home with a $500 deductible would be $736, according to Foley; moving up to a $1,000 deductible drops the annual premium to $672. That’s $64 in savings.
Every major insurer offers discounts to various groups, such as university employees or firefighters. Figure about 5%. Ask which affiliations would entitle you to a discount and how much. If an AARP membership would result in a $50 savings, pay the $16 dues and pocket the $36 difference. Many insurers also offer discounts ranging from 1% to 10% or more for installing protective devices like alarms and deadbolt locks, for going claim-free for an extended period, or for insuring both your car and your home with the same carrier.
G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer who has been involved in insurance litigation. A frequent contributor to many national publications including Consumers Digest, Bankrate.com, REALTOR(R) Magazine, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, personal finance, and legal topics.
Reprinted from HouseLogic (houselogic.com) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS (R).
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.