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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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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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Why Is It Best to Work With an Independent Insurance Broker

Taking care of insurance is a necessary part of adult life, but finding the best deal can be a challenge. With so many options available, it may feel overwhelming to understand what you need. Working with an independent insurance broker is the best way to make the process easier and more cost-effective.

Lake Region Insurance Agency is proud to have independent agents to meet your insurance needs. We offer free reviews of the coverage you have and can help you fill in the gaps without confusion. Stop in at any of our Greater Minnesota insurance offices to get started.

What Is An Independent Insurance Broker?

As the name suggests, an independent agent works independently of a brand or company. So, rather than only selling policies from Allstate, for example, they have many different options to offer clients. This independence means they have access to a vast number of plans and are not bound to one company.

An independent broker can represent several insurance firms. This variety also allows them to provide services in a vast range of areas, from auto insurance to commercial policies and everything in between.

Advantages of An Independent Insurance Agent

Choosing an insurance agent without ties to one company provides many benefits:

1. You have many more options available.    

Many insurance companies specialize in a particular product or service, such as health insurance or auto insurance. This expertise means they have a strong knowledge of that niche but are unable to offer assistance on anything outside their specialty. 

An independent insurance agent has training in dozens of different products. This range gives them extensive knowledge and experience. Their customers can access a wide variety of products without having to go from brand to brand. 

Brokers have contacts and connections across the insurance industry. This choice means that you will have the chance to pick from a far more extensive range of products than if you remain with a particular company.

As well as accessing multiple insurance products in one place, independent brokers work with your best interest in mind. They do not have to worry about quotas and meeting the company’s demands to sell certain products. Instead, they can focus on getting the perfect policy or policies for what you need.

2. You will save time.

An independent insurance broker does the time-consuming work for you. They can swiftly search available plans that match your requirements. Their expertise makes quick work of a job that might take you hours and hours of online searching. Your time is highly valuable. Let an independent agent handle this task for you.

3. There is no extra charge for their expert help.

Some people have a mistaken idea that they have to pay the broker for their work. Independent insurance agents receive compensation from the companies, not from you. You do not have to pay extra for their service.

4. You can receive specialized insurance.

Some insurance needs fall into a niche. Areas such as critical illness protection or cyber liability insurance can be personal, lengthy, and complicated. In these areas, you may need to have coverage tailored to your exact needs. This level of detail can be hard to access when you are researching by yourself or using comparison tools. A broker will help.

A broker’s help is also great when you need to insure a high-value item, such as a piece of artwork or an antique. Experts in the industry will be able to help you purchase appropriate coverage with sufficient protection.

5. You will receive the best coverage for your needs.

Corporate insurance firms need you to purchase their policy. That is their business model. This plan means that they may not necessarily seek out a product that meets all your needs. The company’s sales goals generally come first, and this can be detrimental to customers.

An independent broker, however, has no such loyalties. They are not tied to any brand or company. Every quote or suggestion is in response to what you need, ensuring relevant policy results. You can analyze their proposals with trust and peace of mind. They take the time to learn about you and your situation to find the right fit.

6. You can save money.

The benefit of using an independent insurance broker is that they can see the big picture. They have access to a significant number of deals, policies, and offers, allowing them to find the best rates. 

Independent agents also can be sure they are comparing apples to apples as they help you shop for policies. They will make sure that property, liability limits and deductibles match up before showing you the different rates. Since they spend time getting to know what you need, they can find just the right policy at a competitive price. 

7. Get help with claims.

Using a broker to buy your insurance policy also helps to speed up the process if you need to make a claim. With just one call to your independent agent, the process will be underway. 

Filing a claim infers that you are already in a stressful situation. Your experienced broker can help relieve some of that worry. From navigating the initial report to submitting paperwork for settlement, an independent insurance broker can help you the whole way.

The Next Steps

If you are ready to shop for a new insurance policy, take advantage of the skills of a broker. Here at Lake Region Insurance Agency, we provide advice and assistance on a range of insurance types:

  • Auto
  • Home
  • Commercial
  • Life
  • Health

We have offices to serve you in New London, Willmar, and Cokato, MN. Our qualified team of experts is on hand to help you with all your insurance needs. Our neighbors and friends rely on us to provide excellent service, and it’s an honor to do just that.

Get in touch today for a free quote to see how we can streamline your insurance search. It doesn’t have to be stressful. We can take care of all the hard work for you and offer the most competitive rates. We’d love to get to know you.