Monday, September 16, 2019

Is Pet Insurance Worth It?

Is Pet Insurance Worth It? Evaluating the Cost

Unexpected things happen to companion animals all the time, whether because of an accident, a dog attack, or unexpected illness, and pet insurance can help defray the costs.
You have to pay monthly premiums for a policy, so it does make sense to do the math to see if buying pet insurance is worth it in the long run.

How Much Does Pet Insurance Cost?

Pet insurance policies aren’t one-size-fits-all. The age of your pet, type of animal, deductible, coverage limits, and your pet’s breed can make a big difference in how much you’ll pay for a policy.
A recent survey of ours found that respondents who have pet insurance spend $76.76 on average per month.
Although this may seem expensive, 77% of those respondents said that their pet’s policy came in handy for emergency expenses. The average potential cost of these expenses came in at $1,458.03.

Types of Pet Insurance

Your policy costs will also vary depending on how comprehensive or restrictive your coverage is. The different kinds of policies you could get include:
- Accident-only coverage: This type of policy covers you only if your pet is injured in an accident, such as getting hit by a car. Premiums are generally very affordable and could start as low as $10.

- Accident and illness coverage: This more comprehensive coverage protects your pet in the event of an accident or illness, with various medical conditions included. Premiums are higher than for accident-only coverage because many illnesses require expensive and ongoing care.

- Wellness coverage: Wellness plans are usually sold as riders, or add-ons, to accident and illness policies. A wellness plan pays for routine care for your pet, such as vaccinations and annual exams. The price will typically depend on the deductible and annual coverage limit you pick, but premiums are typically very affordable for owners.

For many pet owners, buying accident and illness coverage with a wellness rider is the best way to control pet care costs. Although you’ll pay the highest premiums for all three types of coverage, you will be reimbursed for many more ongoing vet care expenses than if you had a less comprehensive policy.

Benefits of Pet Insurance

Pet insurance provides many benefits for pets and their owners. First and foremost, you’ll have peace of mind knowing your animal can get medical care in case something goes wrong. You’ll also be able to get your animal the very best quality of care without worrying about price. No pet owner ever wants to weigh their financial stability against their animal’s future, and one way to help ensure that won’t happen to you is to buy pet insurance.

For some pet owners, it’s also possible to save money not just on a pet policy but also on other types of insurance coverage as well. If you bundle your insurance policies under one insurer, you can usually score multi-policy discounts that help you save while getting the protection you and your loved ones deserve.

Downsides of Pet Insurance

Unfortunately, there are also some downsides of buying pet insurance. One of the biggest downsides is that most pet insurers do not cover pre-existing conditions. This means if your pet is already sick, you won’t be able to get insurance to cover the cost of care for that particular condition.

Different insurers have different policies regarding how animals with pre-existing conditions are treated, so you may not be able to get coverage for your pet at all. You may be restricted to accident-only coverage or you might be able to get coverage for everything except your pet’s pre-existing health issues. It’s very important to shop around to find the right pet insurance if you have an animal with a health concern for whom who you want to get coverage. (For example, Trupanion is one pet insurer that provides coverage for animals with past health problems under certain conditions.)

Another downside to pet insurance is you won’t end up saving much if your pet never develops any health problems and only ever needs routine checkups. If your pet is generally healthy, you may be better off with a pet insurance alternative such as Eusoh or Pet Assure, which allows members to obtain pet care with in-network providers at discounted rates.

Of course, it’s true of human health insurance that if you stay healthy, you probably won’t get your money’s worth. Sadly, it’s less likely you’ll need only basic care as your pet ages, as many older animals develop medical conditions that require more expensive treatment.

Pet insurance may also not cover any treatments considered experimental or performed outside of the United States, and most policies have annual limits. So, if you need truly expensive care, you may not be able to get it fully covered.

Common Pet Health Issues

There are many common health issues animals face, and understanding the likely out-of-pocket costs you could incur for these conditions can help you to determine if paying pet insurance premiums is worth it. Here’s the average cost of common ailments your pet could experience, according to Animal Wellness Magazine.

Should I Get Pet Insurance?

As you can see, having a pet without insurance could be very expensive if your animal develops health issues. However, this doesn’t mean pet insurance is right for everyone. You’ll need to consider the type of animal you own, its specific breed, its general health, and whether you’d prefer to pay upfront premiums in case you need care or whether you’d rather save in case your animal develops health problems.

Although some pets may cost less to care for than others and you may not really need pet health insurance, people with cats and dogs — and especially with breeds known for health problems such as Great Danes or American Bulldogs — can often benefit from getting coverage.

If you think you may want protection for your pet in the future, it’s a good idea to enroll when your pet is as young as possible. If you get a policy when your pet is still young and healthy, you can secure better long-term rates on coverage and can hopefully get protection in place before your animal develops any pre-existing conditions. However, if your pet is already more than 6 years old, the cost of premiums may be too expensive, and you may be better off setting aside money in a savings account for future expenses.

You also need to ask yourself how much you’re willing to spend on veterinary costs if something goes wrong. Some people simply can’t afford big vet bills and might be put into a position of having to choose euthanasia instead. If having an insurance plan could mean the difference between giving your pet more time or being forced to put your animal to sleep, paying small monthly premiums for pet insurance could definitely be worth it.

How to Get Pet Insurance

If you’ve decided buying a pet insurance policy is right for you, getting covered is easy. Comparing the best pet insurance companies lets you get quotes and sign up online. It takes only a few minutes, but you will need some basic information such as your pet’s name, age, and breed.

As you shop for pet insurance quotes, you may find some pet insurers require a veterinary exam before you get a policy while others don’t. Most pet insurers will also want to see your pet’s medical history and any records you have available before you are approved for coverage.

Since policies and premiums can vary from one insurer to the next, it’s also important to compare quotes from multiple insurers to make certain you’re getting the best possible rates. You’ll also want to read the fine print in your plan so you know what healthcare is covered and what isn’t. Waiting periods can also vary from insurer to insurer, so familiarize yourself with how long you’ll have to wait for coverage to kick in.

Personal Story About Pet Insurance Costs

When Kara Stachel, an attorney at Land Esquire in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, got her dog Mademoiselle, Stachel bought pet insurance with Healthy Paws to cover her pup in case of health issues.

Shortly after she got pet insurance coverage for Mademoiselle, the 9-month-old, 3-pound Yorkie took a running leap off the couch to greet a guest. Sadly, the incident led to a toe fracture that ended up with the little dog in a cast as big as she was. A week later, Mademoiselle was picked up in the mouth of a pit bull and fell to the ground. The cast likely protected the pup from her fall but necessitated a day of observation at the vet and treatment for a puncture wound on her back.

Although Mademoiselle luckily recovered, the cost of her medical bills over this short time came to around $1,200 — and could’ve been as much as $4,000 had the fracture required surgery. Fortunately, after Stachel paid the deductible, her Healthy Paws policy reimbursed for her 90% of the costs incurred.

Bottom Line

If you own a pet, looking into pet insurance can make a lot of financial sense. You don’t want to put your animal at risk of not getting essential care, nor do you want to jeopardize your budget in case a serious health issue crops up.

In the same survey mentioned earlier, 88% of respondents with pet insurance felt it was worth it. Just make sure you shop around to get the coverage you can afford that provides your furry friend with the protection he or she deserves.
By Christy Rakoczy

Monday, September 9, 2019

Real Estate Client Expectations in a Tech-Driven World

Real Estate Client Expectations in a Tech-Driven World

Remember the days when selling a property meant your real estate agent hammered a sign in the yard and put a lockbox on the doorknob? Today's world of selling properties looks vastly different with the advances and conveniences afforded by technology and the Internet. However, with that comes higher expectations of a seller's real estate professional.

Sellers are more sophisticated about the real estate transaction, thanks to the proliferation of online information. They want to know things like what kind of marketing their agent does, how that agent uses online tools, whether staging of their home is included in the agent's services, what kinds of photos will appear on the agent's website and brochures, and whether twilight open houses will be held.

There are some important new developments for sellers to know:

• Expanded listing exposure. Multiple Listing Services (MLSs) can now collaborate through syndication of a listing beyond the "home" MLS so that a property can get exposure to more potential buyers.

• Better data. Tools like Realtors Property Resource (RPR) are available to the brokers and agents who subscribe to MLSListings, and they can track data, trends and market information in real time to formulate more accurate property valuations.

• Direct access to information. Critical market and property data are now available to buyers and now in the MLS, where the advantage over third party sites is continuous, real-time updates. This means greater empowerment in the transaction process.

These consumer-centric advantages and features may beg the question; what is the value today of the real estate professional? Without a doubt, digital platforms are becoming more sophisticated and giving buyers and sellers a great deal of data. But, there's more to the sale of a property than advanced algorithms and numbers. Technology alone could not factor in all the possible considerations that will ultimately affect a buyer's decision in virtually every sale.

The role and value of a real estate professional lies in their ability to interpret the data, and to guide you through the lengthy transaction process using their market knowledge and expertise. Agents and brokers can get the right buyer and best sale price.

It is a fact; these days a seller demands more from a real estate professional, owing to their access to information. However, today's brokers and agents are armed with the tools and knowledge to meet those demands.
By MLS Listings, Inc.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Are You Really Ready to Buy or Sell a Home?

Are You Really Ready to Buy or Sell a Home?

Your home. It's likely the biggest investment you will make in your lifetime. It can also be the biggest asset you own. So, making a move to buy or sell a home can be one of the most consequential decisions you make in your lifetime. Certainly, you will have a primary reason for doing either, but have you weighed other important considerations? There are guideposts that can help to ensure you are being necessarily thoughtful when approaching the purchase of a new home, or selling the one you're in.

Buying a home? Think about...

 Financials. How much can you afford in a down payment? If you put down less than 20%, you will pay a lot more for your house in fees like mortgage interest because lenders see you as a riskier buyer. Look at what the taxes and other fees, as well as maintenance costs, will be and how much you will need to save every month in addition to paying your house note.

 Growth. How long do you plan to stay in this home? As your family grows or your lifestyle changes, will this home be able to grow with you or will you find you will quickly outgrow the home? The flexibility of a home design and the opportunity to make expansions or remodel should be considered.

 Resale. How will your home fare in pricing to re-sell? If you buy the best home on the block or in the neighborhood, it will be harder to get a higher asking price. Look for homes located in a good school district, offer walkability to shops and restaurants or other community features, and have lower crime rates. These aspects will raise the value of your home and make it a real asset.

Selling a home? Think about...

 Pricing. Pricing your home correctly will save a considerable amount of angst and frustration. Aim too high and you will get little response. The market determines what your property is worth – what a buyer is willing to pay for a house comparable to yours. Work with your real estate professional to get your home priced right.

 Timing. In California's perennially hot markets, "peak season" for selling a home is virtually year-round so timing really means looking at aspects of different seasons. In late spring and summer, more buyers are trying to get into a home before school starts but this means greater competition with other properties for sale. Selling around the winter holidays may mean fewer buyers but it also makes a great home highly sought after – and potentially higher sale prices at this time of year.

 Financials. Preparing your home for sale may require repairs and even some renovations to maximize the value and the appeal to potential buyers. Do you have enough money set aside to invest in upping the value of your home? Talk to your real estate professional about key features buyers look for in a home, as well as where updates and upgrades will pay off.

Real estate moves are often an exciting new chapter in your life but it's important not to allow emotions to drive those decisions. Give serious consideration to all that is involved in the process and you will end up with a move that you can feel good about for years to come.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

What to know when buying new windows

What to know when buying new windows

Shopping for new windows means sorting through an overwhelming amount of numbers, options, performance factors and styles. But once you learn the basics, you’ll work your way around the stats like a pro.
Before you dive too deep into the window buying process, first consider whether your existing windows are nearing the end of their lifespan. Aluminum windows generally last between 15 and 20 years, while wooden windows last around 30 years.
Efficiency also plays a major role. According to the Department of Energy, heat loss or gain through windows are responsible for more than 25 percent of residential heating and cooling energy use. You can make a big difference in your energy bill by upgrading to more efficient windows.

Reading a window label
Two labels provide vital information on window performance: the Energy Star label and the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) label. Don’t overlook these, because they tell you quite a bit about how much those windows can help you. The Energy Star label indicates the window meets energy efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Energy Star offers a climate zone map online that helps you select the best products for the area you live in.
A NFRC certification label verifies that a window meets their standards and provides performance information. This label rates a window’s U-factor, solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC), visible transmittance and air leakage. These stats may look like alphabet soup, but they play a big role in how much energy you’ll save!

What the numbers mean:
1. U-factor
Between .20 and 1.20. A window’s U-factor is a measure of how much heat can escape a home by passing through the window. The lower the number, the better the heat retention.

2. Solar heat gain coefficient
Between 0 and 1. This indicates how much heat from sunlight a window can block. The lower the number, the less you’ll spend on cooling.

3. Visible transmittance
Between 0 and 1. This indicates how much light the window allows into your home. The higher the number, the more light is transmitted.

4. Air leakage
Between 0.1 and 0.3. This refers to how much air infiltration a window product permits. The lower the rating, the less air will pass through the cracks.

Hiring a window pro
Besides the window choice itself, the biggest decision you’ll make with new windows is choosing who installs them. Make sure any pro you hire holds the proper license, bonding and insurance to do the work and meets these qualifications:
- Are they full-time window installers?
- Have they installed your type of window before?
- What certifications and manufacturer training do they have?
- What kind of warranty do they offer?
- Are they familiar with specific local and neighborhood rules governing windows?
By Paul F. P. Pogue

Monday, August 19, 2019

How to decide whether to repair or replace your roof

How to decide whether to repair or replace your roof

You can save a lot of money in the long run if you pay attention to this vital component of your home
Your roof is one of the single biggest investments in your home’s infrastructure, and it plays a vital role in the rest of the house’s well-being. This means the decision to repair or replace it needs to be taken very seriously.

Questions to ask a roofing inspector
Roof damage can create expensive problems in a hurry. Water intrusion or obvious gaps in the attic are a major warning sign. Buckled shingles and damaged flashing could alert you in advance of problems.
The National Roofing Contractors Association recommends getting your roof inspected every spring and fall to identify potential problems. Those are the busiest times for roofers, so you’d be wise to make calls now in order to get someone out in September. A roof inspection costs about $200, but you can head off much more expensive repairs down the line. And this second opinion can make a big difference when deciding whether to spend tens of thousands of dollars replacing your roof.
Ask your inspector these specific questions to you figure out when and if you need to replace your roof:
- How long will the current roof last?
- How long will the flashing and other components last?
- What signs of deterioration are you seeing?
- How likely are additional leaks?

Another notable concern: How will the repairs match the existing roof? Some repairs aren’t visible at all, but visible repairs are hard to create a perfect match due to weathering. If you’re hoping to sell the home in the next few years, you may want to take this into account.

How much does a roofing job cost?
The average re-roofing job costs about $8,000, but this can vary widely based on your material type and size of home. Copper, aluminum and steel are some of the longest-lasting materials, with lifespans around 50 or 60 years, but they’ll cost more. Tiles and asphalt shingles will last about 30 years, but they cost the least of all roofing materials. However, you’ll be repairing them more frequently.
Depending on the job, you can save 25 percent by covering an existing asphalt roof with a new layer of shingles. However, some roofers say this might cause you to miss water damage on the plywood level that might otherwise have been discovered. Make sure you hire a roofer with experience in this method.
The most important element in the roofing decision, though, is a trustworthy roofer. Make sure your roofer is licensed, bonded and insured, and has a physical location in your area. Ask for references, and check them.
Ask what guarantees they place on their work. The industry standard for workmanship is between five and 10 years. Some specific manufacturers also offer much longer material warranties.
A good roofer also won’t object if you want to seek a second opinion. They know that this is a big investment and you shouldn’t rush into the decision without all the information. All these factors will add hours to your process, but if you’re going to spends thousands of dollars, they’re a wise time investment.
By Paul F. P. Pogue, Angie’s List