Insurance Merrillville

5 Questions to Ask Before You Buy That Fixer Upper

 PHOTO: HGTV’S FIXER UPPER

PHOTO: HGTV’S FIXER UPPER

So, you found your dream home … but it needs some work to make that dream a reality. With a little bit of planning, work and patience, you think you can turn that fixer upper into something special. Here are five questions to ask before jumping in.

1. Where is it?
As with all real estate, location is paramount. As you consider the upgrades your dream house will need, think about whether those changes might actually overprice the house for the neighborhood. In addition to being in a nice, livable home, you’ll want to recoup your money when you eventually sell.

2. How much work is involved?
Fixer uppers can be a lot of work, so know what you’re getting into first. Scout out the house with a real estate agent and an experienced inspector, who can help identify the home’s issues. Are they cosmetic concerns––ugly shag carpeting, ghastly old wallpaper, outdated appliances—that can be quickly and easily replaced? Or are the issues structural? Be concerned if a home’s foundation, structure and electrical wiring require work, and ask yourself: How much is too much fixing up? Also, consider whether you’ll be able to live in the house during renovation; finding alternative housing could mean added expense.

3. Who will do the work?
Before investing in a fixer upper, decide how much you can do yourself. If the repairs aren’t extensive and you have the skills to make them, you can save money with a little sweat equity. But if you’re considering a major renovation, you’ll likely need to hire a contractor. In that case, do your research before deciding to buy. Once you’ve found someone reliable, with solid references, have them help you estimate the scope of the work—and make sure they’ll be available when you’re ready to start construction.

4. How much should I pay?
When it’s time to crunch numbers, enlist your realtor’s help. Start by comparing prices for homes in good condition in that neighborhood to determine a fair purchase price. Then, estimate the cost of the renovation and deduct that from the fair purchase price to arrive at an offer to buy. And remember, even the best-laid plans can go awry. When estimating the price of renovation, factor in the possibility for cost overruns or timeline delays.

5. How will I pay for it?
Major makeovers will likely need separate financing. A Federal Housing Administration (FHA) 203(k) rehabilitation loan can help. It allows you to buy the home and have a reserve fund in escrow for renovations. A home equity loan (also known as a second mortgage) or home equity line of credit (HELOC) taken at the same time as your primary mortgage may also be an option. Both let you borrow against the equity you already have in your home—for new homeowners, that’s usually the amount of the down payment. A mortgage specialist can help you sort through the options.

Article as published by AAA

https://athome.chicago.aaa.com/affording/5-questions-ask-buy-fixer-upper/

Do You Practice Safe Selfies? Start Now.

 Erie Insurance: http://bit.ly/2ouEB2A  by Leah Knapp

Erie Insurance: http://bit.ly/2ouEB2A

by Leah Knapp

The selfie: That simple act of holding up your phone and snapping a photo of yourself. (Please note: Having someone take a photo of you by yourself is not, by definition, a selfie.)

What once seemed reserved for teens obsessed with documenting every aspect of their lives and celebrity red carpet events now seems to pervade all corners of our lives. Even politicians have mastered the art of the selfie.

The practice seemed to hit its peak in 2013 when Oxford Dictionary declared “selfie” its word of the year. Yet, its ubiquity shows no sign of slowing.

And while selfies can be an easy way to capture a moment, they can be dangerous.

There are some statistics around selfie fatalities. But there is far less data about injuries resulting from selfies, likely because there is no reporting mechanism for such things.

…And let’s face it, who wants to admit to spraining an ankle taking a photo of themselves?

At last count, there were 13 landmarks around the globe that have actually banned selfies in some form or fashion.

And consider this: A 2015 survey by Erie Insurance found that 4 percent of drivers admit to taking selfies while they’re driving, while another 23 percent have seen others do it. With more than 420,000 people injured in car accidents involving distracted driving each year, it’s time to get serious about keeping your hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.

With that in mind, we’ve created these simple reminders for you to share and encourage others to #PracticeSafeSelfies. Download them below and help us spread the word. To download, right click and select "Save As."

Just don’t post them #whiledriving.

Great Shot

 

 

 

Protect Your Pets from Hot Cars

by Jennifer Sonntag on July 7, 2017

 

To a dog, there’s nothing more exciting than going for a ride, having the window rolled down and feeling the wind in your ears. However, when the car stops and owners run a “quick” errand, what can happen to your pet is dangerous. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), hundreds of pets die in hot cars each year. Time passes faster than owners realize and car temperatures can climb to well over 115 degrees, putting your pet’s life in danger.

How fast does a car’s temperature rise? Here are some examples:

When it’s 70 degrees outside, your car’s temperature inside is 89 degrees after just 10 minutes and up to 104 degrees after a half hour. If you’re traveling with your pet on an 85 degree day, your car’s temperature is 104 degrees after 10 minutes and nearly 120 degrees after a half hour. Pets cool themselves by panting and through their skin and have a harder time cooling down in hot weather. In a hot car, heat stroke can happen in just a few minutes.

What to do if you see a pet in a hot car

Take caution when you see a pet in a hot car. If you identify a pet is in distress in a hot vehicle, the best thing to do is contact local law enforcement. Some states have laws against leaving a pet in a hot car, however, it varies. Obtain guidance from law enforcement before taking action and breaking a car window on your own. Once you call law enforcement, stay by the vehicle and keep an eye on the pet until help arrives.

How to treat a pet with heat stroke
First, it’s important to know the signs of a heat stroke:

Warning signs: panting, drooling and lethargy
Advanced stage: grey or blue gums, limp body posture with heavy breathing and the pet may be in shock

Cooling the Pet Down

 

  • Get your pet to an air-conditioned environment

  • Work to cool the pet down by wetting the ears and pads of the feet with cool water (do not use frigid water, use cool water).

  • Place cool, wet towels over the shoulder/neck, under the front legs and in the groin area

  • Refresh the water frequently

  • If the pet will drink, provide cool water or small ice chips


What to do if the pet is unresponsive

  • Call an emergency veterinarian immediately and tell them you’re on your way.

  • If the gums are gray/blue, they are in need of immediate treatment and should be rushed to the nearest emergency treatment center.

  • They will help cool the dog and administer subcutaneous fluids.


Additional Tips for Pet Owners in the Summer

  • Short-nosed, long-haired and young dogs are more at risk and prone to heat stroke.

  • On hot days, limit exercising your pet to early morning or evening hours.

  • Asphalt gets very hot and could burn your pet’s paws.

  • Pets with light-colored noses or light-colored fur on their ears are vulnerable to sunburn and skin cancer. It’s safe to use sunscreen on their noses and ear tips.


If you’re going out during the summer, it’s best to keep your pet at home, in a cool, air conditioned environment. 

How to Get Your Car Ready for Summer

by Jennifer Sonntag on June 23, 2017

Summer is finally here! Longer days, warmer weather and spending more time outside. We take precautions from the sun and heat when we’re outside, but what about our cars? Did you know that the sun and heat can cause serious damage to your vehicle, too? Here are some tips to help you care for your ride this summer:

Prep work

 

  • Make sure your car’s cooling system is completely flushed and refilled every 24 months, and the levels, condition and concentration of the coolant are checked periodically.

  • Oil and oil filters should also be changed based on your car’s owner’s manual. (Changing the oil and filters every 3,000 miles is a good rule of thumb).

  • Keep your windshield clean and replace worn wiper blades. Be sure to check for plenty of wiper fluid in the reservoir, too.

  • Look at your tires and make sure to check the pressure at least once a month. When you do check, make sure the tires are cooled down and always rotate your tires every 5,000 miles to ensure even wear.

  • Check for changes in the way your brake pedals feel and take your car for repairs immediately if you hear scraping or grinding noises.

  • Remove dirt and insects from your lights and make sure all bulbs are working. Tip: to prevent scratching, never use a dry rag.

  • Have a professional technician look at your car’s air conditioning system. A marginally operating system can fail in hot weather. Newer car models have cabin air filters that clean the air entering the heating and air conditioning system.

 

On the road and in the sun

 

  • Keep an eye on your car’s temperature. If you see that it’s getting overheated, you can turn on your car’s heater to pull the air away from the engine to the passenger compartment of the vehicle.

  • During long trips, try to target your driving times for the cooler parts of the day, such as early morning or late evening.

  • When you park your car, try to find a shady spot and crack your window slightly. Leaving your windows cracked an inch will create enough space to vent the hot summer air.

  • Be sure to never leave children or pets in the car, even for a quick errand. A car’s interior temperature can heat up from 78 to 100 degrees in less than three minutes.

  • Update your car’s emergency kit. While you might need that parka and snow brush for the winter, they won’t do any good for the summer heat. Here’s a sample list of items to include in your summer car emergency kit, in addition to your normal car emergency kit:

  • Water: one gallon, plus one bottle per person

  • Sunscreen, bug spray and hat -- you might have to be outside of your car

  • Blanket: keep this in your car to use for shade

  • First-aid kit

  • Flashlight

 

Another thing you’ll want for your car is auto insurance you can count on. Talk to an Erie Insurance agent in your community to learn more and get a free quote.

5 Security Tips for Your New Home

by Jessica Thiefels on April 5, 2017

 

When you think of home security, you probably imagine expensive, intricate systems that cost more than you’re willing to shell out—especially after buying a new home.

But that’s not always the case. Good home security doesn’t require a pricey, state-of-the-art system. In many cases, small changes and habits are all you need to keep burglars at bay.

Keep these five security tips in mind as you move into your new home. They can save you from spending on an expensive system, while enjoying the same peace of mind.

1. Fake cameras actually work. Fake security cameras sound funny—and ineffective—but don’t rule them out. Not only are they a fraction of the cost of an actual security camera, but, "Most fake security cameras have a noticeable blinking LED light that deters criminals at night when they’re most active," according to home security experts. If the light stops blinking, just replace the batteries.

Purchase a few to place around the front and even rear entrances to your house to provide maximum protection. Don’t forget to pair them with “This home is protected by…” security stickers. These stickers can be purchased for less than $10 online. This makes your fake cameras seem even more real.

2. Fewer windows=good move. Adding more windows to boost the amount of natural light into your home might look good, but they make your house a more attractive option for intruders. Nearly 30 percent of burglars gain access to a home through an unlocked door or window—and windows on the first floor are especially common targets. It’s easy to forgot to lock windows after opening them to get fresh air, and that can be a costly mistake. If your garage door has windows, tint them so intruders can’t see if you’re home or away. The same goes for your front door and first floor windows—invest in blinds and keep them closed for the best line of defense. You can also put a frosted coating on the lower half of your windows, which only lets outsiders  see only through the top half. These come in peel and stick form, so you can make this update quickly and economically.

3. Make your home look occupied. It’s become increasingly common for break-ins to occur during daylight hours, since most people are away at work, the kids are at school and the neighbors aren’t out and about to notice anything suspicious. Here are a few ways to make your home look more active during the day to deter potential burglars:

  • Have landscapers come at all different times of the day so there’s someone there in the morning, afternoon and evening. It will be harder for burglars to spot a pattern this way.

     

  • Keep lights on in the most visible rooms in the house. You can install a timer to have them turned on and off if you don’t want them on for eight hours straight.

     

  • Don’t let mail pile up while you’re away, which is a clear sign that no one is home. Ask a friend or neighbor to pick it up each morning and leave it in your home. This way, if anyone is watching, it appears as though people are checking in and going in and out of the home.

4. Consider your landscaping. Believe it or not, your landscaping can deter criminals. People who are attempting to break into a house want somewhere to hide if the mailman drives up or a neighbor comes outside. If you have large trees or bushes planted along the first story of your house, it gives burglars a great place to wait it out.

Avoid this easy hideaway by keeping your landscaping simple, trimmed and polished. Plant bushes that are low to the ground and provide maximum protection—think rose bushes or citrus plants that have spiny leaves. Also consider using gravel instead of mulch so you can hear when someone approaches your home.

5. Video doorbells are worth checking out. One new way to keep your home safe and deter your kids from opening the door to strangers is a video doorbell. More affordable than most security cameras, these easy-to-install gadgets provide on-demand video, a live view of your front porch at all times and motion detection alerts sent straight to your smartphone.

Several of the newer models allow two-way audio so you can communicate with anyone who rings your doorbell, even if you aren’t home. These are a great security feature if you have kids who open the door for strangers or if your door doesn’t have a peephole.

Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than 10 years and is currently a lifestyle blogger. She’s written for Reader’s Digest, AARP, Lifehack, Homes.com and more. Follow her on Twitter @Jlsander07 for money-saving ideas, health tips and more.

Will Self Driving Cars Eliminate Distracted Driving? Most People Think So, Says New National Survey

by Abby Badach on March 30, 2017

 

If you had a self-driving car, how much attention do you really think you’d need to pay to the road?

That’s what we wanted to find out when we asked nearly 3,000 licensed U.S. drivers in a new national survey to coincide with Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

The survey, commissioned by Erie Insurance and conducted online by Harris Poll, finds almost six in 10 (59 percent) think that self-driving cars will eliminate the problem of distracted driving.

We’re still years away from a future where self-driving cars are the norm. But that hasn’t stopped these survey respondents from making plans for what they’d do with their downtime behind the wheel of a self-driving car.

Survey Says: Nap

Sleeping promises to be a popular pastime in self-driving cars. Roughly half of licensed drivers (51 percent) say one of the biggest advantages of self-driving cars would be the ability to go longer distances without worrying about being drowsy while driving. About one-fifth of licensed drivers (19 percent) say they’d sleep or nap while operating a self-driving car.

How else would people spend the extra time? Other survey responses include:

  • Texting (34 percent)

  • Checking and sending emails (34 percent)

  • Reading (27 percent)

  • Playing video games (11 percent)

  • Meditating (10 percent)

A small percentage admitted they’d use their commutes to – ahem – get a little cozy. Seven percent of licensed drivers say they would engage in “romantic activities” while operating a self-driving car, with men almost four times more likely to do this than women (11 percent vs. 3 percent, respectively).

When asked to write in what they would do, a few others said they would pray.

One honest driver admitted he’d be “a nervous wreck.”

Slow Your Roll

We can daydream all we’d like, but the reality is a future with totally autonomous vehicles is likely a long way off.

"The term ‘self-driving car’ suggests I can hop in my car, enter a destination and have it take me from point A to point B. But that car doesn’t exist yet,” said Adrian Lund, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Currently, driving distracted has stark consequences. In 2013, Erie Insurance analyzed police data and found that daydreaming was the most fatal distracted driving behavior behind the wheel. And according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, human error is a factor in 94 percent of car crashes.

“While we believe that fully autonomous vehicles will greatly reduce that number, it’s hard to predict how soon they will be widely available,” said Cody Cook, Erie Insurance vice president and product manager of ERIE’s auto department. “Current technology is going a long way to keep us safer on the road, but the last thing we want is for people to become over-confident as this technology continues to evolve. Unfortunately, our survey finds that many people are getting ahead of themselves—making plans for what they’ll do in the car instead of paying attention to the road.”

Rush Hour Happy Hour?

The prospect of self-driving cars also raises some interesting questions about a serious topic: Driving under the influence. It’s hard to speculate how current drinking and driving laws would change (or not change). Still, 13 percent of our survey respondents believe you wouldn’t get cited for DUI/DWI if you have a few drinks and then operate a self-driving car.

One-third (33 percent) believe that one of the biggest advantages of self-driving cars will be the ability to get home safely if under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

However, a much smaller percentage of those 21+ (5 percent) admit that they would drink alcoholic beverages while operating a self-driving car.

What’s in a Name?

What are we calling this new class of vehicles, anyway? “Self-driving” or “autonomous” are the current front-runners. But those terms largely ignore the fact that car operators may still need to pay attention to the road and be ready to take control.

So, we posed the question to our survey respondents: What else should we be calling these new vehicles?

Many of the suggestions revealed drivers’ fears about the safety of self-driving cars. Responses included:

  • “Boy are you lazy”

  • “Potential disaster car”

  • “Bad Science car”

  • “Take your chances car”

  • “Accidents waiting to happen car”

“While some of the responses may have been written in jest or taken on a lighthearted tone, if our survey gets people talking about a serious issue like distracted driving, it will have served its purpose,” said Cody. “We hope people will remember that despite technological advances, it’s still critical—for now, anyway—to keep your eyes on the road, your hands on the wheel, and your mind on what you are doing.”

Methodology: This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of Erie Insurance from February 28 - March 2, 2017, among 2,932 U.S. licensed drivers ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact Leah Knapp. 

Commercial Insurance Basics

Commercial Insurance Basics

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Small Business Insurance 101

Small Business Insurance 101

Protecting your business with insurance is an important part of small business ownership. The proper insurance minimizes the risks associated with unexpected events, liabilities, and losses.

However, as with any choice you face as a business owner, knowing and finding the best insurance for your needs is not an easy task.

No matter that you are starting a business, taking on employees for the first time, or evolving your business structure, there are many variables that determine the right insurance for your small business, including your business structure, business activities, location, whether or not you hire employees, and many other variables...

The Four Food Groups of Business Insurance

The Four Food Groups of Business Insurance

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Reducing the Risk of a Car Accident

Reducing the Risk of a Car Accident

Spring is right around the corner, and the warmer weather often prompts people in Illinois and Indiana to hop in their cars for weekend (or longer) road trips.

In this blog, REGION Insurance Group gives some tips on staying safe on the roads of Chicago, its suburbs and Northwest Indiana

Slow Down, Save Money

Slow Down, Save Money

How many times has the following happened to you? You’re speeding down the Dan Ryan when you spot a Illinois or Indiana state trooper. You quickly hit the brakes and slow down, relieved that you didn’t get caught … this time.

REGION Insurance Group hands out some information on speeding and how it can effect Indiana drivers. 

Graduation Driving Safety Tips

Graduation Driving Safety Tips

This time of year often sees other, more tragic defining moments - serious car accidents involving teens who are distracted or even under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Region Insurance Group give tips for staying safe this graduation season. 

Distracted Driving

Distracted Driving

Distracted drivers in come in all shapes, sizes, ages and experience levels. Even if you’re not one today, you could become one at any moment — in the time it takes you to answer your cell phone or check the kids in the back seat when you’re driving through {neighborhoods}.

Region Insurance Group offers some tips on driving safely and keeping your auto rates down. 

Buying a Car for Your Graduate

Buying a Car for Your Graduate

So, you’ve decided to reward your graduate with a car (or help him/her purchase one, at least). That’s great! Adding a car to the family can make life easier for everyone — as long as it’s the right car.

Borrowing a Car

Borrowing a Car

Most people have an idea of what’s covered and not covered under their various insurance policies. But at REGION Insurance Group, we get a lot of questions about borrowing or loaning a car. 

Protecting Your Home

Protecting Your Home

Everyone wants to keep their home safe from burglars or intruders, but not everyone wants to have an alarm system installed. There are plenty of people who prefer the do-it-yourself route, whether it’s home improvement or home security. 

Let's Keep Our Lawns - and Ourselves - Safe in Illinois and Indiana

Let's Keep Our Lawns - and Ourselves - Safe in Illinois and Indiana

For many of our neighbors in Chicago, its suburbs and Northwest Indiana, summer means more than sunshine and vacations. It also means working in the yard - often with tools that can be dangerous if not used properly.

Scheduling Your Valuables

Scheduling Your Valuables

If you’re like most people, there are certain items you own that you can’t imagine ever losing—possessions you deeply cherish or those that would be impossible to replace due to the cost of re-purchasing them or simply because they’re irreplaceable. REGION Insurance Group can help make sure you're covered. 

Preventing Water Damage

Preventing Water Damage

One of the most disheartening experiences is to find flooding or extreme water damage to your treasured home in Crown Point, Dyer, Schererville, Chicago, or its suburbs. 

Why A Home Inventory May Be a Good Idea

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People of Illinois and Indiana, the fact is most people own more things than they realize. It’s easy to remember the cars, the computer, the TV. But what about that holiday china in the garage?  Or every pair of shoes?  Probably not.  

Call REGION Insurance Group today to discuss insuring your personal property.