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The Ins and Outs of Car Insurance for Teen Drivers

Your teenager is learning to drive. It’s both exciting and scary because you want to give them freedom while also keeping them safe. And on the practical side, you now need to think about car insurance for teen drivers. 

Start your new driver’s journey the right way. Call Lake Region Insurance Agency for a free policy review and quote. Our agents in Cokato, New London, and Willmar, MN, are happy to partner with you on this exciting next step.

How to Choose Car Insurance for Teen Drivers

Insuring new drivers can be expensive. They haven’t proven themselves yet, so insurance companies see them as a higher risk. As a result, they charge more to insure teenagers than experienced drivers. 

But rates vary from one company to the next. How do you decide which policy to buy? 

You could search online for hours, comparing policies, and landing on numerous spam email lists. This plan is a time-consuming and potentially frustrating way to get protection.

The better option is to talk with your independent insurance agent. Independent agents can search from a variety of plans and policies. They do the comparing for you, weed out the poor choices, and bring you the best options.

Your agent will help you choose the policy limits that are right for your family. Depending on your budget, you might consider increasing your deductible to lower the monthly premium. Be sure to discuss all of the possible options with your agent. In an accident, if damages exceed the value of your policy, you may be held responsible for the difference. 

You can also think about adding an umbrella insurance policy. Umbrella insurance is an all-purpose, rainy day policy. It could help cover you in the case of a lawsuit for damages beyond what your other insurance policies cover. 

It’s also an excellent idea to include your teenager in conversations with your insurance agent.  They will start to learn about the financial responsibility that goes along with driving and the repercussions for things like speeding tickets.

How to Reduce Teen Driver Insurance Rates for Your Family

There is no shortcut for gaining driving experience. It must come with time. But there are a few things you can do to reduce the expense of new driver insurance.

  • Utilize driver education. An experienced professional instructor can reduce new driver stress for your teen and you. And a certificate from a state driver education program may qualify them for a discount on their insurance. 
  • Add them to your insurance instead of getting a separate policy. Some parents want their child to have their own policies. But it is usually less expensive to add your teen to an existing plan instead.
  • Get them a safe car. Does your teen want the newest, fastest car? Of course they do! But combining a new driver with a fast car is both dangerous and expensive. Get them a safe car to drive to save your dollars.
  • Ask your insurance agent about discounts for good grades. Students who focus and learn well tend to be better drivers. And most insurance policies reward good grades with lower rates.
  • Consider some tracking. There are several devices available that will inform you if your teen starts driving dangerously. There is no need to be sneaky, so make sure to tell them about it. Knowing that someone is paying attention might keep them from driving recklessly. 
  • Make sure the policy assigns your teen to the right car. Some vehicles cost more to cover than others. If your insurance policy adds your teen to your most expensive car, your rates will be higher. But, keep in mind that your teen can only drive that specific vehicle. If they have an accident while driving a different car, your insurer might assign penalties and increase your premiums. 

Talk With Your Teen About Safe Driving.

The best insurance plan will take care of damages when they happen, but it’s better to avoid them altogether. 

Talk to your teen driver about these critical safety rules:

  • Don’t text and drive. They’ve heard it before, but keep telling them. Texting while driving causes deadly accidents. Set a good example by tucking your phone away when you’re behind the wheel.
  • Don’t drive tired. People who drive with too little sleep perform a lot like people who drive drunk. Slower reactions from sleep-deprived brains cause many accidents every year.
  • Don’t drink or use other drugs while driving. Of course, you hope your teen isn’t drinking alcohol yet. But the fact remains that many teams do. Create a plan with them to get home safely. Talk to them about choosing a designated driver. Make sure they know that you will come to pick them up at any time to keep them safe.
  • Don’t speed. Speeding is a factor in over 22% of all fatal car crashes. It accounts for more deaths than impaired driving.

Remind your teen about the common sense things they need to do each time they are behind the wheel. Safe habits might be second nature for you. But your new driver may need several reminders before crucial actions become habits. 

  • Slow down in adverse conditions. You know that feeling when your tires lose traction? Your new driver may not have experienced that yet. Talk to them about taking it easy on icy roads and what to do if they start to slide. 
  • Wear your seatbelt. Just do it. Every. Single. Time. 
  • Let faster drivers pass. Remind your teen to avoid engaging with reckless drivers. They should know to let speeders get past them and never try to race another driver.
  • Recognize when conditions are too bad for driving. Winter in Greater Minnesota can be vicious. Have you ever gone through the type of storm that makes you turn off your radio? Then you know that sometimes you just need to stay put until the clouds clear.

Remember, the best way to teach your new driver good habits is to follow them yourself. Make a contract with your teen and be clear about the consequences of breaking it.

Your child is on the road to independence, so let’s keep them covered on their journey. Make sure to call Lake Region Insurance Agency for a comprehensive review. We are experts at helping parents understand car insurance for teen drivers.

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Your Guide to HVAC Air Purification Systems

Many homeowners wonder how to keep their household air as clean and germ-free as possible in our current times. Installing HVAC air purification systems is one way some families drastically improve the air quality in their homes. 

Some people experience seasonal allergies, asthma, or a compromised immune system. Others are in a high-risk demographic for COVID-19, a whole-house purification system may help you enjoy cleaner air in your home.

At Lake Region Insurance Agency, we love sharing tips and tools to increase your home’s value and function. We also take great pride in providing dedicated and reliable service when it comes to your insurance policies.

Reviewing your choices each year can help you ensure proper coverage for upgrades like whole-house air purification systems. Give us a call today for a free insurance review. Our independent agents are on your side in Cokato, New London, and Wilmar, MN.

Why Consider HVAC Air Purification Systems?

The Environmental Protection Agency states that indoor air quality is typically more polluted than the air outside. And most people spend as much as 90% of their time inside. Let that sink in for a minute.

In businesses, schools, and homes, people may be breathing in irritants such as:

  • Dust
  • Pollen
  • Germs
  • Pet Dander
  • Mold
  • Tobacco Smoke
  • Chemicals

And going off the EPA’s statistics, many people are doing this for over 21 hours per day.

Of course, keeping your house clean and well ventilated goes a long way toward ensuring healthier air inside your home. But cleaning may not be enough if you have bad allergies or symptoms triggered by air pollution. In these cases, you might want to install an HVAC air purification system.

From Basic to State-of-the-Art

With any forced-air HVAC unit, you’ll have a built-in rudimentary filter. This piece is the flat screen that you should change each month. You can pick them up at a neighborhood hardware store, and they slide right into a panel on your furnace. Just be sure to check the size required for your system.

You have a wide variety of options when it comes to media filters.

Essentially, the more material in the filter, the better the air quality it delivers. A flat filter costs less to purchase, but an accordion-type screen provides superior air filtration. It’s best to choose the highest quality filter you can to improve your indoor air quality.

Replacing these filters on your furnace should be a well-traveled habit each month. And there’s nothing wrong with changing them more often to ensure minimum dust and dirt buildup on the filter. 

Choosing HEPA filters can provide an improved air quality rating as well. These filters can block 99.97 percent of all particles that measure a minimum of .3 microns.

Go the extra mile in creating a healthy home and select an electrostatically charged variety of furnace filters. These panels trap different particles like pet dander and pollen. The standard filters only block dust. 

You can leave the electrostatic filters in place for two or three months, but don’t forget about them! Write a note on a calendar or set a reminder on your phone to be sure you don’t ignore this crucial part of home maintenance.

Step Up Your Purification Game

If you want to upgrade your home’s filtration structure to ensure ever-cleaner air, there are two heavy-duty options available. 

  1. Extended Media Filters – These filtration tools appear like a stack of media filters in a drawer. Remember, more filtration material equals cleaner air. It costs about $400-$600 to integrate these into your ductwork. Replacement is straightforward but more expensive than it is for a single filter. You’ll need to buy a new one each year for about $50.
  2. Electronic Filters – If filtering smoke is a concern in your home, an electronic filter could be the best choice. These high-powered systems pass air through your ductwork and apply an electrical charge. At the end of your channel, a metal plate collects the charged particles. Though there are no paper filters to replace in this system, the metal “catch” plates need a washing with soapy water every couple of months. Prepare to spend up to $1000 on the equipment and installation. But your air will be spic and span as long as you regularly clean the aluminum filter plates.

Go Nearly Germ-Free with an Ultra-Violet Filter

This heavy hitter of a filter knocks out pathogens at a high rate. These whole-house air purification systems integrate with your HVAC equipment for an add-on price of $400-$800.

The ultraviolet light practically vaporizes pathogens that hit the filter. 

An ultraviolet system works well for overall germ reduction in your home. In fact, hospitals use this type of filtration in wards housing highly contagious patients. However, you still need to wash your hands and cover your cough to help keep those around you from getting sick.

When HVAC Isn’t an Option, Go Portable

You can still create cleaner air in your home even if your furnace doesn’t support an HVAC air purification system. Portable filters can also be effective at “spot cleaning” areas of your home’s airflow.

Many portable filter systems use HEPA filters as their primary mode of function. Though these units effectively scrub the air in a room, they can be noisy and require frequent replacement of the HEPA filter.

For less noise, try an ion portable filter system. These units use electrostatic filtration methods and hum quietly wherever you place them.

Lake Region Cares About Your Home and Health

We’re your neighbors here at Lake Region Insurance Agency. We care deeply about our communities in Greater Minnesota and want the best for you and your family. 

Our independent agents can shop the insurance market for the best policies to fit your coverage needs and your budget. We work for you. We offer excellent rates and quick claim processing and payout. Our agents have your best interests at heart. 

Call us today for a free quote on your home, auto, life, or health insurance policies. Take advantage of our hometown know-how.  We’ve proudly served the Wilmar, New London, and Cokato, MN, communities for over 50 years. We’re committed to your satisfaction and peace of mind.

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How Does Flood Insurance Work, and Do I Need It?

When it comes to protecting your house, you probably have coverage for the home’s structure and contents. Many homeowners believe that this gives them full financial protection in the event of any disaster. But it’s also important to consider a few questions. Do I need flood insurance? And how does flood insurance work? 

At Lake Region Insurance Agency, we know the damage flooding can cause here in Greater Minnesota. If you feel unsure about your coverage, reach out to one of our agents today. With offices in New London, Willmar, and Cokato, MN, we are here to serve you.

How Does Flood Insurance Work?

As the name suggests, flood insurance is a specialized form of coverage that kicks in if a flood damages your home. This type of policy is for flooding due to natural causes. Some examples of events that might trigger a claim include:

  • Heavy Rain
  • Rapid Snowmelt
  • Levee Failure
  • Storm Surge

Flooding from burst pipes or a malfunctioning washing machine falls under a homeowners policy. That’s a whole different event.

Only a small minority of homeowners have flood insurance, even in high-risk areas. This lack of coverage can result in a significant eye-opener if disaster strikes.

But I Already Have Homeowners Insurance. Isn’t That Enough?

Too often, people believe they have coverage for flood damage under their homeowners insurance. But this is not the case. Flood insurance, like earthquake coverage, is a separate policy that you purchase. Unfortunately, many owners do not realize this until it is too late.

In some situations, buying flood insurance may be a requirement to secure a mortgage. This necessity is especially true if you are in a high-risk area.

For commercial properties, the same concerns apply. Your business insurance policy likely doesn’t protect you against flood damage and loss.

How Do I Decide If I Should Buy Flood Insurance?

You may assume that you do not need flood insurance, especially if you have never experienced a disaster. Many people think if they don’t live in a high-risk area, they don’t need to worry about it.

However, flood maps tend to change over time. These alterations happen according to shifts in local infrastructure, weather patterns, or nearby building work. 

For example, the construction of a new neighborhood on a local floodplain could mean there is no longer an escape for excess water. As a result, your property may have inadvertently slipped into the high-risk category without you realizing it. 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) maintains the Flood Map Service Center to help determine risk. They update the data annually, and you can check it to see how your home fares. Mortgage companies use this information to decide whether or not to require flood insurance on a property. 

Even if the data place your home in a low-risk category, that doesn’t mean flooding can’t happen. And home could be at risk. 

National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)

The NFIP is a program that FEMA manages, and it is available only in communities that choose to participate. There are two types of coverage: structural property and personal property.

A policy for the building itself is ‘replacement cost value’ coverage. That is, it pays for your home’s repair and replacement costs, up to the limits of the policy. To purchase coverage through NFIP, you must also have full homeowners coverage.

Replacement cost value protection typically covers:

  • The foundation of your home and the physical structure 
  • Built-in kitchen appliances such as stoves and refrigerators
  • Electrical and plumbing
  • Furnaces and air conditioners
  • Heaters
  • Flooring
  • Wallboard and paneling
  • Window blinds
  • Permanent bookcases and cabinets
  • Detached garages
  • Removal of debris

Personal property or contents coverage addresses the items in the home. This option generally covers:

  • Clothing
  • Furniture
  • Electronics
  • Curtains
  • Portable kitchen appliances
  • Washer and dryer
  • Freezers and any food in them
  • Up to $2500 in valuables, including artwork and jewelry

As with any insurance policy, some exceptions apply under NFIP coverage. These include:

  • Basements or any areas of your home below ground level
  • Any damage caused by mold, mildew, or moisture not caused by floodwater
  • Stock certificates, cash, or bearer bonds
  • Precious metals
  • Loss of income
  • Trees, plants, or shrubs outside the home
  • Swimming pools or hot tubs
  • Walkways
  • Decks and patios
  • Septic systems
  • Temporary housing
  • Cars

NFIP coverage is simple to obtain through an insurance agent. Typically it takes 30 days from the date of purchase before a policy goes into effect. Premiums vary significantly depending on where the property sits. 

Private Flood Insurance

There are a limited number of private insurers who can offer flood insurance, as well. These options are outside the federal government. This coverage can have several benefits for homeowners, including:

  • Higher Levels of Coverage – Private flood insurance tends to offer higher levels of coverage than NFIP does. This option may be important for those with high-end homes and belongings.
  • Lower Premiums – As data has become more sophisticated, private insurers have been able to offer competitive rates. For some homeowners, these premiums may be less than those offered by NFIP.
  • Shorter Wait Times – You typically have to wait 30 days for NFIP policies to go into effect. Private coverage can start in less than a week.
  • Extra Perks – Unlike with NFIP, you may be able to claim short-term housing costs. And your policy may cover items that NFIP excludes.

There are some negatives associated with private insurance. It may not be available in very high-risk areas. Also, banks may not accept a private policy when you take out a mortgage with them. 

Lake Region Is Here to Help

Insurance decisions can feel confusing and overwhelming. The lingo and terminology aren’t very user-friendly at times. 

That’s why the experts at Lake Region Insurance Agency are here to serve you. We definitely can answer the question, “How does flood insurance work?” 

We have years of experience working with a range of insurance policies. Our independent agents have access to coverage from many different companies, so we are sure to find just what you need.

Don’t spend another minute worrying about protecting your home, car, business, or health. Reach out to Lake Region today for a free insurance review.

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Term Life vs. Whole Life Insurance: What’s the Difference?

Protecting your loved ones in the event of your death or catastrophic illness is essential. People want to ensure financial security for their families but wonder about term life vs. whole life insurance. What are the benefits of each policy, and which one is the best fit for your family?

At Lake Region Insurance Agency, we help Minnesotans in Cokato, New London, and Willmar, MN. We decode the particulars of whole life and term life insurance, so you avoid confusion. And we shop from an extensive list of insurance providers so that you can select the policy that meets your needs. Give us a call today to receive a free insurance review and quote.

Why Do I Need Life Insurance?

A life insurance policy can help those you love to pay for expenses like rent, mortgage, food, and childcare. And life insurance payouts can help cover funeral and burial costs, as well. 

Even if you’re not the primary breadwinner in your household, you should consider carrying life insurance. You likely provide necessary care for your family that they will still need if you’re gone. 

The services that a stay-at-home parent provides carry a value of more than $178,000, making them costly to replace. A life insurance policy can help cover the cost of those tasks so that the household can keep running.

When purchasing a life insurance policy, you need to look at who in the household provides both the finances and general upkeep. You can then choose adequate coverage to continue your life with as little interruption as possible if the worst happens. 

What Is Term Life vs. Whole Life Insurance?

People often shy away from choosing a life insurance policy because they feel overwhelmed by the options. They may not know the difference between policies, so they just ignore this critical piece of their financial security. 

Owning a life insurance policy is too vital to ignore. So here is a breakdown of the primary two choices.

Term Life Insurance

Term life insurance means you purchase a policy that’s active for a specified period. You can choose how much coverage you have and the length of time you have it. You’ll pay a set monthly premium for your coverage that remains consistent throughout the length of the term.

Most term life policies come in chunks of 10, 20, or 30 years. These policies carry different premiums depending on your health and overall risk factors, such as:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • History of Smoking
  • Occupation
  • Chronic Illness: such as diabetes, heart disease, or high cholesterol

A term life insurance policy pays out only if the insured person dies. Generally, people choose this type of coverage until certain milestones occur. For example, you may want to select a policy term length that would cover you until:

  • You pay off your mortgage.
  • Your children graduate from high school or college.
  • You pay off all consumer debt.
  • You save enough money to retire comfortably and pay your living expenses.

This type of insurance policy carries no cash value for the person who owns it.

Whole Life Insurance

As the name suggests, this type of permanent life insurance covers you for your whole life. These policies provide a cash payout to your loved ones in the event of your death, just like term life policies. 

However, whole life insurance builds cash value over time, like an investment. The premiums for this kind of policy are considerably higher than term life policies, but they stay consistent as long as you hold the policy. You also lock in a guaranteed cash value rate.

Some whole life policies may also pay out regular dividends. You can take this in cash or use it to offset premium costs or obtain more coverage.

Choosing the Right Life Insurance Policy

So, how do you choose the best policy for your family? Here are a couple of questions to ask yourself. 

  • Are you caring for a loved one with a chronic illness or disability? If so, a whole life policy may be a good choice for you. You’ll pay more in a monthly premium, but you’ll also build cash value. This amount can help your beneficiaries cover any estate taxes as well as your final costs like funeral and burial.
  • How much can you afford in premiums? Permanent life insurance policies have higher premiums than term life plans. Depending on your current income, you may opt for a term life policy.
  • What are your health status and family situation? Your age, overall health, and the ages of your children can help you choose the right policy for your needs. You may opt for term life for lower premiums and invest the money you save in other retirement accounts. 
  • Are you looking for an investment option? Term life does not carry any value unless the policyholder dies. Then it pays out to the beneficiary. Whole life, however, does have a value that can be part of an investment strategy. It can also offer a cash payout if you surrender the policy.

 

How Much Coverage Do I Need?

A good way to calculate how much coverage to purchase is to multiply your annual salary by 10. The cash benefit of either a term or permanent life insurance policy should be enough to replace your income for several years.

If you are purchasing life insurance for someone who does not have income, choosing an amount can be trickier. Consider what it would cost to replace what they do for the household. Would you suddenly need to pay for childcare or housekeeping? Would you need to hire someone to do grocery shopping? All of these needs deserve attention.

Lake Region Insurance Agency Takes Care of Its Neighbors

We’ve seen our community in Greater Minnesota through some of the toughest challenges life dishes out. We can help your family feel secure in times of uncertainty.

And if you’re still not sure about term life vs. whole life insurance, we have you covered. Get answers to all your questions about life insurance and more with a free consultation. Call one of our independent agents today, and let’s get started.

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How To Stay Safe on a Motorcycle This Summer

Through the long winter months in the Northland, Minnesotans dream of warmer weather and getting out in the sunshine. Motorcycles are a fun way to enjoy the back roads and scenic highways, but you must know how to stay safe on a motorcycle for the most care-free touring experience.

No matter what you’ll be driving this summer, the Lake Region Independent Agents can find the coverage you need. Visit our website today to schedule a free insurance review or consultation. Our agents are available in Cokato, Willmar, and New London, MN. We’ll help you select the best plan on the market for your needs.

How to Stay Safe on a Motorcycle at All Times

At Lake Region Insurance Agency, we want to make sure all our clients get out there and enjoy Greater Minnesota. But safety is paramount when you do it on your motorcycle. We’ve assembled several tips to help you enjoy your bike with confidence and care.

Start with the right bike for your body size and experience.

It’s critical to try several different motorcycle models before you make a purchase. You’ll need to determine how much bike is right for your body size and frame. And you need to learn what you feel comfortable supporting. 

For example, it’s unlikely that a 6-foot-6-inch person will feel comfortable riding a smaller sportbike for long periods. On the flip side, a person of smaller stature may feel awkward atop a full-size motorcycle where their feet barely touch the ground. 

There is another crucial bike-size factor for safety. You must make sure you feel confident in supporting and balancing the bike’s weight when you’re at a stop. If you try out a motorcycle and always feel like you’ll tip over, then it may not be the best fit. 

To be safe, you need to be able to:

  • Sit comfortably on the bike.
  • Support the machine’s weight.
  • Lift and lower your feet with ease when transitioning from a stop.

Engine size is another essential aspect of safe motorcycle riding. It’s a good idea to start with a smaller, less powerful engine as a beginning rider. Bigger engines pack more punch and require significant control. 

For newbies and experienced riders alike, make sure you know the bike’s speed and acceleration capabilities. You have to handle the horsepower underneath you before you hit the road.

Take a class (or two or six).

Education and practice are two hallmarks of safe riding in Minnesota and beyond. Minnesota offers a comprehensive menu of safe rider courses all over the state. 

When you sign up for motorcycle safety training, you receive a lot of valuable information. You’ll get online classroom instruction on safe riding practices, applicable laws, and defensive driving techniques. Plus, you will practice your skills on a suitable and dedicated course with a training bike. You’ll learn road skills like:

  • Stopping
  • Shifting 
  • Turning
  • Clutch and throttle control
  • Straight-line riding techniques

Classes target beginners, intermediate riders, and experts. The skills taught in each course differ according to your level of expertise and experience. 

Keep your riding skills fresh by taking a new course before that first long ride of the season, even if it’s a repeat. You’ll likely gain practice in an area where you feel less confident each time you take the class.

Grow an extra set of eyeballs.

Most motorcycle accidents occur because a car driver didn’t see a motorcyclist. You’ll need to hone your defensive driving skills to remain safe on your bike. Be sure to stay clear of other motorists’ blind spots on the road. And don’t assume that cars, trucks, and commercial vehicles can see you.

Get visible with your gear.

It can be tempting to kit yourself out in the classic black leather of the iconic rider. Leather can provide excellent skin protection and keep you warm in the elements. However, high-visibility gear is the way to go for safety.

When you wear bright yellows, greens, and oranges, you’re more visible on the road to other drivers. Visibility means increased safety. Motorists may notice you more quickly during turns, at intersections, or on the freeway. 

With the increasing trendiness of high-vis motorcycle gear, you have a lot of options available. Now there is a wide array of state-of-the-art materials in styles for any preference.

Don’t forget your helmet.

Helmet laws are controversial in many states. But the fact is, motorcycle helmets significantly reduce the instance of head injuries and the risk of death. The statistics are staggering and illustrate the importance of helmet use. When wondering how to stay safe on a motorcycle, using a helmet is critical.

Make sure your helmet is DOT approved and no older than five years for the best protection. Inspect your helmet each season for signs of wear or damage. 

If you purchase a helmet online, be sure the vendor has a comprehensive sizing guide. Quality vendors will have you take your exact measurements and submit them before ordering your helmet.

Your helmet fits properly when it’s snug but comfortable. When wearing your helmet, you should be able to shake your head gently and have the helmet stay put. This is especially important for young riders. Never put an adult helmet on a child. Kids should always have their own properly-fitted protection.

Get Comprehensive Insurance Coverage for Your Motorcycle

Of course, we hope that adopting the above safety precautions means you never get in a motorcycle accident. However, things happen on the road that you can’t control. Be sure you have coverage for every eventuality.

A motorcycle insurance policy from Lake Region Insurance Agency can increase your peace of mind when you’re on the road. Comprehensive coverage can help address medical bills, property damage, liability, and damage to your bike if there is an accident. It can also offer financial protection in the event of theft, vandalism, or fire.

Call or stop by one of our offices, and we’ll shop our extensive network of providers for the best deals. Ride easy knowing that Lake Region Insurance Agency has your back when you’re on the open roads of Greater Minnesota.

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Essential Spring Home Maintenance Checklist

It’s time to open the windows and let in the fresh air. Spring is officially here! How deep does your spring home maintenance checklist go? This time of year, it’s great to go beyond basic spring cleaning to get your house in excellent shape.

Maintenance isn’t the only thing your house needs to stay safe. Make sure you have adequate homeowners insurance in place, as well. Reach out today to the team of independent agents at Lake Region Insurance Agency for a free review.

Get Started On Your Spring Home Maintenance Checklist 

No matter where you live, spring is a great time to give your home some love and attention. Whether you are emerging from a gloomy winter or just want to freshen up your place, now is the perfect opportunity. With indoor and outdoor projects, you’ll soon get everything ship-shape.

Exterior Maintenance

These projects on your spring home maintenance checklist are best to do before the summer heat arrives.

  • Investigate the Roof – Safely and carefully assess your roof for any damage, leaks, or missing shingles. Or hire a professional to do the inspection for you. Address problem areas quickly so that your roof will last its proper lifespan.
  • Clean the gutters – Clear the gutters of any leaves or debris. Check the downspouts to ensure nothing is clogging them, and caulk any holes to prevent leaking. If they are sagging or are detached, reattach the gutters and replace any old or broken hardware. And make sure that downspouts are draining away from the home’s foundation. 
  • Examine the Concrete – Take a walk around your property to check the concrete patios, driveways, and pool foundations. If there are small cracks, you might be able to fill them with a concrete filler or a water-resistant silicone. However, if the concrete has severe damage, reach out to an expert to talk about replacement.
  • Inspect Faucets – Turn on outdoor faucets and check for any damage after the winter. Watch for leaks since they can strain your water bill. If your water pressure seems unusually low, you may have a cracked or broken pipe. Call a professional for help.
  • Clean the Air Conditioning Unit – Spring is the perfect time to take care of your HVAC system. Vacuum and wipe the vent to get rid of dust, and replace the filters before use. Spring is also an excellent time to schedule an AC tuneup and servicing. 
  • Give Your Deck Some TLC – Check the deck for any loose or missing nails or fasteners. Test the railing and stairs to be sure everything is still attached correctly. Look for water damage and stains, and replace any boards that are loose or rotting. A powerwash can help with the overall appearance of your deck.  
  • Check Your Fence – The winter weather can be hard on wooden structures such as decks and fences. After you care for your deck, it’s time to take a look at your fencing to check for decay and damage. Unless you really love your neighbors, you probably want your fence to remain intact.
  • Assess Windows and Doors – Now is the time to install screens if they aren’t already in place. Patch up tears or purchase a new screen if necessary. Check the seals on your windows to be sure they are ready to keep the summer heat out of your home.
  • Test the Sprinklers – Turn on the sprinklers and check for leaks or broken sprinkler heads. Replace heads and hoses if needed. Adjust the sprinklers so that they spray toward the grass and away from the house, sidewalk, and patios. Make sure to set your timer the way you want it.
  • Dress Up the Landscaping – Clear out the weeds and debris that collected during the winter and pack soil into any low areas in the ground. This step will help prevent flooding from spring rain. Cut back shrub overgrowth and add new plants, if desired. Small changes can make you feel like you have a whole new home with a boost to your curb appeal.

Interior Maintenance

Spring cleaning your home is an excellent way to feel happy in your space. But there are often interior projects that need your attention, too. Your spring home maintenance checklist is just as essential inside as it is outside. 

  • Open the Windows – It’s time to let the spring air in to freshen things up a bit. Clean the window frames of any dust, dirt, or mold that are lurking there.
  • Pay Attention to the Attic and Basement – These two spots are prone to mold growth because they are often damp, dark spaces. Check around the baseboards and lower section of each wall for moisture build-up. Clean up and dry any water to prevent the formation of mold. If you see some suspicious areas, call a professional for help to protect your health and safety. 
  • Do Routine Safety Checks – Test all the smoke and carbon dioxide detectors within your home. If necessary, replace the batteries immediately. Ensure that all exhaust fans are clean and in working order. And if you have a fire extinguisher in your house, make sure it is accessible and that the needle is within the green zone. Don’t have one yet? It’s time to get one.
  • Clean the Furnace – Your furnace has worked hard over the last few months to keep you warm. It now deserves a well-earned cleaning of the filter, motor, and blower. If you do not feel confident cleaning the furnace yourself, call in a professional. They will take care of this vital system so that it can continue to serve you.
  • Plan Other Upgrades – Spring is the perfect time to install new lighting, appliances, or other necessary items for your home. When planning these updates, you should consider energy-efficient options to help reduce utility costs. 

Enjoy a Safe Home This Season

Once you finish your checklist, you will be ready to enjoy the summer. And to be sure your house has the protection it needs, connect with a Lake Region agent today. We offer free insurance quotes and reviews for everything from home to life policies. Call or stop in at one of our Greater Minnesota offices today.

 

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5 Tips for Cleaning Gutters After the Winter

Now that we are fully into springtime and winter is behind us, you’re probably thinking about home maintenance projects. There is plenty to do after the harsh weather has taken its toll. One of the most important projects is to take care of your gutters. With some helpful tips for cleaning gutters, you can tackle this chore with ease.

No matter the season, your home deserves some TLC. One of the best ways to care for your house is to be sure you have adequate homeowners insurance. The friendly agents at Lake Region Insurance Agency can help. Stop by any of our Greater Minnesota offices for a free insurance review.

When is the Best Time to Clean Gutters?

Gutter maintenance is unlikely to be high on your list of favorite activities. But it is a critical component of caring for your home. Fortunately, cleaning the gutters is not something you have to do frequently.

Typically, you should tackle this project every six months. Most homeowners choose to do this as part of their spring cleaning after winter is over. Cleaning out your gutters this time of year helps to keep them working well when the rains come.

On that schedule, you’d do another cleaning after summer ends. Again, you will be able to clear the gutters of leaves and other debris before winter weather arrives.

As is often the case with home maintenance, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Don’t let clogged gutters create problems for you at an inconvenient time.

The Cost of Neglect

Your home’s gutters have one job. They collect precipitation from a home’s roof to direct it away from the house’s foundation. This process protects your house’s roof, siding, and foundation.

As with any kind of pipe, gutters need to be free of obstructions and blockages to fulfill their function. When something blocks your gutters, rainwater can accumulate and overflow. 

Where does the water go when it overflows? It goes to the very place you want it to avoid: your home’s foundation. When water ends up near the foundation, it can seep into your basement or crawlspace.

This issue creates a domino effect of problems since water in the basement can translate into mold growth. And mold can require expensive remediation to keep you and your family safe. Furthermore, foundation repair isn’t cheap. Homeowners can easily spend $10,000 or more to fix damage to this part of their house.

So routine maintenance on your gutters is vital to saving yourself time and trouble in the long run.

Tips for Cleaning Gutters on Your House

When it’s time to handle this chore, there are some simple steps to follow. These tricks and tips for cleaning gutters will help you finish quickly so that you can enjoy the spring weather.

1. Let a Scoop Do the Dirty Work

If you’ve avoided cleaning your gutters because the job is gross and tedious, you’re not alone. Fortunately, there are some ways to streamline the task and minimize the “yuck” factor.

The debris that accumulates in your gutter tends to be organic material that decomposes, such as leaves. When this stuff begins to break down, it can congeal into a pretty gloppy mess. 

If scooping slimy matter out of a pipe with your hands doesn’t appeal to you, there’s good news. A plastic scoop cleans gutters efficiently and keeps your hands cleaner in the process.

Once you’ve eliminated the significant blockages, make sure you flush your gutters with a hose. This way, you can be sure you’ve thoroughly dislodged all foreign substances, big and small.

2. Be Smart About Ladder Safety

Ladder-related accidents account for about 300 deaths each year in the United States. So safety is critical during a gutter cleanout. To help keep yourself safe, follow some basic common sense steps:

  • Don’t use the ladder when you are all alone. Let someone know that you will be up there. Ideally, have another person on the ground to help keep the ladder stable.
  • Consider purchasing a ladder stabilizer for added safety, especially if you choose to work alone.
  • Make sure the ladder is tall enough for the job so that you can safely reach the gutters. Overreaching is one of the top causes of falls from ladders.
  • Follow all safety guidelines for your ladder.

3. Dress for the Job 

Gutter cleaning is a dirty job, so be sure to wear old clothes. Long pants and long-sleeved shirts give you the most protection. 

Gloves, a mask, and protective eyewear are also good ideas during this project. Debris can fly up at you as you work to dislodge blockages in the gutters. For ladder safety, be sure to wear sturdy shoes that will stay tied.

4. Have a Plan for the Debris

You might be wondering what you’re supposed to do with the gunk you scoop from your gutter. You don’t want to drop it on your yard or patio, or you’ll be doing double the work to clean it all up again.

Place a tarp below where you can drop all the debris. This step will make it simpler to gather and dump in with the yard debris. For smaller jobs, you could keep a bucket with you and empty it as it fills.

5. Consider Calling in the Pros

Do you have a bigger home or one that’s two stories or higher? Then one of the best tips for cleaning gutters is to hire a professional.

Although it requires an outlay of money, hiring a pro gets the job done quickly and safely. It also doesn’t force you to give up your sunny weekend to clean out the gutters. It’s a win-win!

Protect Your Home with Lake Region Insurance Agency

Your house is probably your most significant investment. Make sure you protect it with sufficient homeowners coverage. The Lake Region independent agents are here to serve you. From auto to life to homeowners insurance, our team can find just what you need.

Lake Region Insurance Agency has been serving the communities of Cokato, Willmar, and New London, MN, since 1970. Let our experience guide you as you choose the best protection for your home and property. Reach out today to get started.

 

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What Is the Lifespan of a Roof?

For home and business owners everywhere, your greatest security often comes from what’s over your head: your roof. You may have wondered, “What is the lifespan of a roof?” especially if you noticed any signs of damage the last time you looked.

Since many insurance claims occur because of roof issues, let’s break down how long your roof should last, and what to do when it’s time to repair or replace your roof. 

At Lake Region Insurance Agency, our customers are also our neighbors. We know how critical it is to feel safe and secure in your home in Greater Minnesota. 

Stop by or call any of the local offices in Cokato, New London, or Willmar, MN, for a free insurance review and quote. We can help you make sure your roof and home have the protection they need. We’ll work with you to find the best coverage at the best value for your total peace of mind.

What Is the Lifespan of a Roof? Depends on the Materials

When installed correctly, roofs are built to last a long time. But they do have expiration dates. The longest-lasting roofs use the right materials for the regional climate. They also receive regular and proactive maintenance.

A well-built roof can last from 10-100 years, depending on the material. That’s a vast range. The more durable roofing materials available today include:

  • Slate – A classic choice for many homeowners, slate provides a long-lasting and beautiful roofing option. It also offers significant curb appeal. Slate tiles are one of the most costly roofing materials on the market today, but you get what you pay for. A slate roof can hold up for 100 years or longer.
  • Concrete tile – A less expensive tile option, concrete tile roofs work well in high-wind areas like the hurricane-prone southeastern United States.
  • Clay or Stone-Coated Steel Tiles – Also resilient to high winds, these tiles last between 40 and 100 years. They are popular and do well in arid climates like the southwestern states. Occasionally, we see them in the Northland.
  • Metal – Some metal roof options like copper or zinc can last up to 100 years or more. Talk about creating a legacy in your home or business. Metal roofing options may also be more environmentally friendly, due to their long life and potential for recycling or repurposing.

While these materials are more costly to purchase and install, their longevity may be well worth the extra investment.

Roofing materials with a shorter lifespan and lower price tag include:

  • Asphalt – Low-end shingles may only last ten years, while top-of-the-line varieties can endure for over 30 years. Be careful about organic asphalt shingles, also called felt mat shingles, in the Northern Minnesota climate. Some types of asphalt don’t fare well in freezing temperatures or high moisture and humidity. 
  • Wood – Though not as common in roofs today, these shingles still make an appearance on older and newer homes alike. You can enjoy wood roofs for up to 30 years with proper maintenance in the right climate. Be careful about insect pests in a wood roof. Cedar shingles have a natural bug resistance and may be a wise choice if you want a wood roof.

Most homeowners opt for the longest-lasting roof they can afford within the budget they have. A quality roof covers more than your head. It can protect all your valuable belongings, memories, and keepsakes for generations to come. And although it is a considerable expense at first, over the lifespan, it is an important investment.

Get a Roof Inspection

It’s difficult to tell precisely how old your roof is unless you oversaw its construction. Or perhaps you have accurate records from a previous owner. Regardless of age, an annual roof inspection is a smart idea. Particularly in areas with harsh climates, roofs can take a beating during the year. 

A qualified roofing contractor or inspector can pinpoint any damage or trouble spots that could shorten the life of your roof. They will look for:

  • Peeling or missing shingles
  • Debris on your roof from tree limbs, leaves, or other materials
  • Water damage or watermarks on ceilings, walls, or in the attic
  • Ice dams in the winter, where ice melts, freezes, and accumulates under the shingles.

So when you are asking, “How long should my roof last?” it will depend a lot on maintenance. Getting regular yearly inspections can help you identify small problems before they become expensive disasters. A roof is typically one of the most costly things to repair or replace on a home. So it pays to keep your roof in top shape with regular maintenance.

Report Damage Claims Accurately and Promptly

Of course, despite your best proactive efforts to prolong the life of your roof, disaster can strike at any time. A robust hail storm, a tornado, or a fire can damage or destroy any roof in a matter of moments.

It’s essential to document any damage with photos and a professional inspection. Do this as soon as the weather or smoke clears, and it’s safe to assess the situation. Many local roofing companies offer emergency services and can help you decide your next steps. 

You’ll need to do the following to restore your roof after a storm or other catastrophic event such as a fire:

  • Have a roofing professional inspect and document the damage to begin filing your homeowner’s insurance claim. Check with your agent to verify coverage. Not every disaster is covered on every policy.
  • Take temporary protective measures to cover holes and leaks or to “Band-Aid” structural issues while planning the next steps.
  • Decide with your roofing contractor or repair specialist whether to fix or replace the roof.
  • Continue following your insurance claims procedure, as detailed in your homeowners’ policy. Be sure to stay in contact with your agent as the process moves forward.

An Expert on Your Side

Lake Region Insurance Agency is here for you and your roof. We help submit a claim whenever Mother Nature or calamity may strike. We work with you from the beginning to be sure you have coverage that fits your needs. 

And as independent agents, we’re on your side for policy choice, speedy claim submission, and prompt payments. Call us or visit our website today for a free insurance review. 

 

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I Bought a Boat! Now What? Boat Insurance Basics for Your New Toy

Getting your very own boat is a fantastic achievement. The chances are that you want to hit the water straight away. Before you head to the lakes, however, it is crucial to take care of boat insurance. Without it, you could find your sailing dreams sunk before they even get started.

The world of insurance can be complicated, especially when you throw marine toys into the mix. If you need a boat insurance company, Lake Region Insurance Agency is here to help. We have the experience to know what you need to protect your investment. Reach out to our team of independent agents for a free review of your policies.

What Is Boat Insurance?

Boat insurance works like car insurance, and it offers excellent protection for you and your vessel. With adequate coverage in place, the policy will kick in to cover losses due to collision, theft, and vandalism. It can also include claims from third parties. If someone gets hurt or you damage someone’s property with your boat, your policy may cover those costs or legal expenses.

Boat Insurance Basics to Protect Your Investment

As with auto policies, there are several boat insurance choices available. Your agent can help you tailor a plan to fit your specific needs. Here are some boat insurance basics for you to consider.

Most boat policies will offer the following:

  • Comprehensive Coverage – This piece covers losses due to vandalism, theft, or fire. Plans typically pay for repair or replacement of your boat up to a set dollar limit.
  • Liability Coverage – This component covers the cost of property damage that you cause with your boat. It can include damage caused to another boat in the dock or on the water. And if you are at fault in an accident, it can cover legal costs.
  • Bodily Injury Coverage – If someone sustains an injury because of your boat, this plan can cover medical costs and time for missed work.
  • Collision Coverage – This type of policy covers the repairs to your boat after a collision. It can cover the full replacement value if needed.

Extra Coverage Options

In addition to the core policy needs, boat owners also may choose from a range of extras for added protection and financial security. These include:

  • Uninsured Boaters Coverage – As the name suggests, this protects you if an uninsured boater hits you. Policies can cover the loss of wages and the cost of medical treatment. They may also include other damage sustained as a result of a boating accident. If the liable boater does not have adequate insurance, you will still have protection.
  • Total Loss Replacement – Sometimes, the repairs to a boat would cost more than its value. In that situation, this plan replaces your vessel with the latest model or a comparable option.
  • Actual Cash Value – If your boat is totaled, this plan pays you the value of the vessel at the time of the accident.
  • On-Water Towing – This policy covers the cost of towing if your boat becomes disabled on the water.

All of these extras can help to make your life a little easier if disaster strikes. Your agent can help you choose the correct coverage for you.

Why Do I Need Boat Insurance?

A boat is a significant investment, and insurance helps you take steps to protect it. Boat insurance offers several benefits, including:

  • Financial Security – When accidents occur, repairs and medical costs can mount up quickly. Making sure that you have sufficient coverage helps to alleviate this financial strain. It offers a buffer in the event that things go wrong. Insurance protects your investment and your long-term financial health.
  • Time Saver – Some policies will replace your boat if there is a collision or other damage. If you would not be able to afford a new one immediately, this speeds up the process and gets you back on the water in no time.
  • Legal Protection – Depending on where you moor your boat, you may not have a choice about purchasing boat insurance. Some marinas and some states require at least a liability policy. If you get caught without insurance, you could lose your boating privileges and face steep penalties.

One devastating error some boat owners make is to assume their homeowners policy covers their vessel. Usually, this coverage does not extend to your boat, especially when you are on the water. It’s crucial to check all the details and get the right kind of plan in place.

Remember Boat Safety

Insurance is not a substitute for safe boating behavior. Different areas have various regulations regarding licensing, education, and age of the operator. To keep yourself, your passengers, and other water enthusiasts safe, follow basic safety guidelines:

  • Take a boating safety class before heading out for the first time.
  • Adhere to all local laws for boating.
  • Have plenty of personal floatation devices on board for everyone. It is always safest to wear a PFE when you are on the water.
  • Do not drink and boat. Have a designated driver just as you would for driving a car.
  • Keep a warning flag on board to raise whenever someone is in the water.
  • Pay attention to potential weather events.

We Can Help You Get Ready for the Lakes

If you need boat insurance for your vessel, our team can help you get just the right policy. We also have plans to cover other marine vehicles such as jet skis. To determine the level of coverage you need, we will consider:

  • The vessel’s age and condition
  • The vessel’s value
  • The vessel’s style – for example, fishing boat vs. ski boat

As an independent agency, we can access the policies from a wide range of insurance companies. Our focus is on making sure you receive the best possible plan for your protection. 

Working together, we craft a personalized plan that takes care of the essentials and gives you peace of mind. And our team can help you get all the different types of coverage that you may need, from home to auto to life. 

So if you’re eager to get your new boat out onto the water, call one of our offices to get started. We have staff in New London, Cokato, and Willmar, MN, to serve you.

 

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Does My Renters Insurance Cover All of My Stuff

If you are one of the millions of Americans who rent their home instead of owning, you probably have considered renters insurance. While most people have heard of renters insurance, many do not fully understand what it covers.

Whether you rent by choice or necessity, rental coverage is vital to protect your belongings. You might not be responsible for the building, but you want to be sure all of your personal items inside have protection.

At Lake Region Insurance Agency, we have years of experience providing insurance coverage to our neighbors throughout Greater Minnesota. We have the plans you need at reasonable rates. Call us today for a quote.

What is Renters Insurance?

Renters insurance plays a few roles. It provides coverage for the cost of replacing your belongings after damage, theft, or other incidents. Renters insurance also covers expenses if someone sustains injuries in your home.

While the landlord is responsible for the structure, you need protection for your things. For example, if there is a fire that damages your belongings, renters insurance can cover the cost to replace the items you lost. 

 

Or if someone sustains an injury in your home, and you are at fault, this policy could pay for their medical bills. Renters insurance may also cover legal expenses if they decide to bring a lawsuit against you. Without renters insurance, the costs could be excessively high in any of these situations.

 

Although the law does not require renters to carry this specific policy, many landlords and leasing agents do. And even if it is not a requirement, it certainly is a wise investment for the peace of mind it gives you.

How Does Renters Insurance Work?

It’s critical to work with an independent agent when you set up your renters policy. You want to be sure you have sufficient coverage for all your belongings. An independent broker can search for plans from many companies to find the right fit.

When you put your policy into place, you may have to declare certain high-value items, like jewelry or collectibles. If you have an extensive collection of valuable items, ensure your plan adequately covers them, and ask your agent about an additional valuable items policy.

When an incident occurs, you will start a claim, just as you would after a car accident. Depending on the policy, your insurance company will either pay you the “actual cash value” or the “replacement cost” of your items. The actual cash value is the depreciated amount based on the age of an object. Replacement value is the amount it costs to purchase the item today.

Just like with auto or homeowner’s insurance, you will choose the amount of coverage you need, which is the amount you can claim in a loss. Your premium is the amount you pay to own the policy, and your deductible is what you have to pay before insurance coverage kicks in on a claim.

What Does Renters Insurance Cover?

Renters insurance covers your belongings inside your rented home, condo, or apartment. When you lose items to damage, vandalism, or theft, you can usually file a claim. This type of policy also can cover living arrangements and expenses if you cannot live in the rented home due to a covered event. 

There is no one-size-fits-all renters insurance policy, so your coverage will depend on how valuable your items are. It is critical that you have sufficient coverage for all of your belongings. Often, people underestimate the value of what they own, and they end up underinsured. Then, if a tragedy happens, they may not receive payment for everything. 

Work with your agent to be sure you purchase the right amount of coverage. That way, if you own something, and it is on the property you are renting, your insurance will likely cover it. 

Renters insurance typically covers items lost due to:

  • Fire
  • Smoke Damage
  • Lightning Strike
  • Wind and Hail
  • Explosions
  • Theft
  • Vandalism
  • Water Damage (from broken pipes or appliances)
  • Mold
  • Falling Objects
  • Snow and Ice Damage

What Does Renters Insurance Not Cover?

While renters insurance offers significant protection, it doesn’t cover losses under some circumstances. As with homeowner’s insurance, policies generally exclude certain things.

Floods and Earthquakes

Extreme natural disasters such as floods or earthquakes generally don’t fall under a renters policy. Landslides and mudflows are other excluded events in most plans. So a traditional renters insurance policy will not cover damage or loss to your items in the event of a flood or earthquake. However, some companies offer these coverages for an extra fee.

If you live in a floodplain or an area prone to earthquakes, these are additional coverages you should consider.

Bed Bugs and Pests

Unfortunately, bed bugs do not fall under most renters insurance policies. Bed bugs and other pests are considered maintenance issues and do not qualify for a claim on your rental coverage.

Damage to Your Car

Although your belongings inside your car may have coverage under a renters policy, the vehicle itself does not. You will need a separate auto insurance plan for that. 

Your Roommate’s Things

If you have a roommate, it’s important to know that your policy will not cover their things. And their plan, if they have one, will not cover your belongings. You could choose to list them on your policy, but this will likely increase your premium and deductible. 

And if you have friends who store things at your place, your plan will not cover their stuff if damage or theft occurs. So make sure they know that!

Call Lake Region Insurance Agency Today

If you are renting your home and have no insurance in place, call Lake Region Insurance Agency today. Or if you’re not sure if you have sufficient coverage, let’s talk. We will go over your needs in a free insurance review to be sure you have the right protection.

As an independent insurance agency, we do the heavy lifting for you. We research the best policies for your situation so that you have just what you need. With multi-line and multi-policy discounts available, we can find the right fit for you.