Common ways to save money on homeowner’s insurance

Although homeowner’s insurance is a necessary expense, there are several ways to reduce these costs with or without spending money on improvements, according to Nerd Wallet.

Some of the simplest reductions, such as bundling the home insurance with auto insurance through the same company or improving your credit score, won’t cost a penny and will likely only require a short phone call. Similarly, raising the amount of the deductible on a policy or lowering the maximum payout for possessions can reduce the rate without any upfront cost. According to Bankrate, you can also receive discounts between 1-20 percent for being a nonsmoker, over the age of 55, part of a homeowner’s association, and not having filed a claim in many years.

For those looking to spend money on home upgrades and renovations, there may be discounts available to help offset some of that spending if the changes make the home safer or more durable.

Many older homes, for instance, have older wiring that poses a much more significant risk of catching fire and causing property damage that insurance companies will often grant a 10 percent reduction in premiums to avoid the potential payoff. In fact, home electrical fires cause an average of $659 million in losses each year while a wiring-related issue causes more than half of those reported. Meanwhile, wind and hail caused by powerful weather can wreak havoc on an unprepared or deteriorated roof, and discounts of 5-10 percent can be had for installing newer, impact-resistant roofing material.

Why It May Be a Good Time to Update Your Home Insurance

Many times, people get home insurance when they first move into a home and forget about it. However, it may be a good time to update your insurance, especially as we get into the winter months in Cypress, TX. It’s important to review your policy when you make changes to your home and your lifestyle, and if you aren’t making a lot of changes, at least review it once a year. If it’s been a while since you reviewed and have made these changes, take out your policy and contact an agent at InsureUS to make sure you are adequately covered.

Home Remodeling: Major remodeling can increase the value of your home, which would mean that you need more coverage.

Big Ticket Items: If you have big-ticket items, such as artwork, electronics, or jewelry, they may not be covered under your insurance. You want to make sure you have enough insurance to cover those items should anything happen.

You Have Stopped Smoking: Smoking can raise your premiums because the chance of a fire is greater. If you have stopped smoking, you may be able to get a break on insurance premiums.

You Have Retired: Retirement might come with an insurance discount because retirees spend more time at home and can spot the signs of a fire more quickly. Retirees also are less likely to be burglarized and can spend more time maintaining their homes.

You Have Installed an Alarm System: An alarm can make it less likely a thief will break in, which may lower your premium.

You Have a New Pet: It’s not good to keep your pet a secret, even if you are worried that your rates may go up, because you want to make sure you are covered if your dog bites someone on the property.

You Have Added a Swimming Pool: A swimming pool can increase your liability risk, so it’s necessary to make sure that you are covered and maybe add some additional insurance.

Contact InsureUS, serving Cypress, TX, to get a quote on homeowners insurance. 

 

The pros and cons of buying into a franchise

Buying into a franchise business of any kind allows the owner to go into business for themselves while providing the benefit of a proven business model, but it can come with a substantial cost, according to Entrepreneur Magazine. For those that have never owned a business, franchises can take much guesswork out of the equation because they will automatically receive the brand recognition, marketing, training, and all other resources that the corporate headquarters will provide.

Another benefit of being a franchisee is that they won’t have to worry about new product development, design, or even the financial systems necessary to keep the business fresh and their territory will be protected within their market. According to The Balance, they also typically benefit from the economies of scale that a large corporation enjoys so their inventory will be cheaper, and they will have better access to employee recruitment. Essentially, a franchise owner is purchasing a turnkey business with a much higher success rate than a startup.

Unfortunately, companies understand the value that their franchises can provide to investors, and it often requires a substantial fee to get started as well as paying ongoing fees or royalties to continue using the brand each year. Operating a unit within another person’s company also means that the franchisee must conform to someone else’s idea of how the business should be run and there won’t be much room to change things or add a personal touch. Successful operators must also worry about how their peers are performing in units of their own as a product or human resources scandal in one location could have implications far outside of their local area.

Facebook ads can work for small business

Facebook is the new media driving small business sales, marketing experts say.

According to Content Marketing Institute, a full 97 percent of all business-to-consumer marketers that use social media are using Facebook ads as part of their advertising strategy and 88 percent of those using it feel as though it is their most effective platform for reaching customers and converting sales. With 1.37 billion daily active users and 2 billion monthly users, Facebook has a massive audience, but it is the targeted nature of their ads that make them so useful, according to USA Today.

A local restaurant, for instance, could decide on Tuesday morning that they want to advertise a special on oysters that night and turn to a Facebook ad to drive traffic to the promotion. With a few clicks, the owner can target an advertisement to users in their zip code that like oysters and eating out and are over 21 so they can buy drinks. The cost of such an ad could easily be under $100.

Meanwhile, traditional ad campaigns in print or radio would require significantly more planning time and cost.

Another feature, lookalike audiences, allow a business owner to automatically find people with traits similar to those who are already following their Facebook pages, according to Inc. Magazine. This approach generated $5 for every dollar spent on this type of ad.

The ability for small businesses to create inexpensive, targeted ads whenever they want creates a fantastic opportunity to market-test new promotions, sales, and other initiatives. They even have a Lead Ads service that lets companies without a website gather email addresses from potential customers that have shown interest in their ads.

Insuring Your Retail Store

Commercial insurance packages are an essential part of any business’s long-term success plan. Retail stores, however, rely on specific insurance policies to protect them in some key areas. InsureUS is an expert in insurance policies for Texas businesses. How can the right commercial insurance coverage help keep your retail store in the Cypress, TX area profitable?

  • Inventory is the lifeblood of every retail outlet. If you lose a large portion of your product due to theft, accident, or natural disaster, will you be able to replace it all? Opt for a policy that includes inventory insurance coverage to prevent misfortunes from forcing you out of business. Payouts for these policies also cover the cost of supplies and equipment you need to deliver your services or products.
  • What happens if your product is the problem? If a customer is hurt or sickened by a product from your store, you may be held liable for at least part of the damages. Product liability coverage pays for any financial responsibility you incur from a case related to products sold in your store. 
  • When you need to close down for repairs, you don’t have to eat the lost profit potential. Business income coverage pays you when you can’t be open. These payments can be used to pay personal living expenses during enforced closures.
  • Customer injury is a big problem for retail outlets. With medical bills, lawsuits, and possible punitive fees, owners can find themselves dipping into their personal wealth to save their business. A commercial general liability policy helps entrepreneurs pay for court costs and medical care, so random mistakes don’t endanger your livelihood.

More than other business types, retail stores need a strong commercial insurance package to protect their inventory, property, and people. Do you have enough coverage? Contact InsureUS for personalized insurance guidance for your Cypress, TX area business.

How to be seen as an expert

You can gain more respect in your area of expertise by using a few basic strategies, according to Entrepreneur Magazine.

Start by narrowing your field of interest, then follow up by writing articles, speaking to groups, and doing podcasts and radio.

Micro-specializing is key. An interior designer might know generally about home and business design. But the idea is to become an expert in one particular type of design. Choose fitness centers or CEO offices, for example, and know everything possible about the needs in the niche.

Publish your results, observations and advice on your specialty in trade journals, or other professional media. This way you become known in the industry.

Once you’ve established yourself in an industry, you could consider taking your most popular or even controversial topics and delving deeper into them with a book focused on solving a problem or informing an audience.

Ultimately, one of the best ways to become an expert or even a celebrity in your field is to move into speaking engagements at professional conferences.

Some brick-and-mortar stores thrive

In small towns and cities all over America, malls are closing, shopping centers are vacant, and the cause is e-commerce.

But physical stores still have power and some sectors are showing resilience, according to Forbes.

Nine companies on the list of Top 10 U.S. retailers is made up entirely of players that rely on foot traffic: Wal-Mart, Kroger, Costco, Home Depot, CVS, Walgreens, Target, Lowe’s, and Albertson’s.

The principal markets for these retailers are groceries, clothing, and home improvement supplies — all more desirable when purchased in person. Consumers still want to examine fresh produce.

They would rather try on new clothes before they buy. Home improvement products such as lumber and tools are still get-it-now items.

In addition, according to a study by the CBRE Group, 70 percent of Millennials — the largest, most connected consumer base — still prefer to shop in stores.

Amazon, the big destroyer of retail, must know that too. Their recent purchase of Whole Foods for $15 billion is a dramatic example of their play in the brick-and-mortar space.

When the kids can’t come up with a down payment, parents can share equity

Parents can help with a down payment on a house for the kids, while protecting their money, with a shared-equity mortgage.

It’s not a common way to help the kids get in a home, but it can give parents some security when they loan money for a down payment.

In a shared-equity mortgage, parents pay a portion of the down payment and are promised a percentage of the profits when the kids sell the home.

The percentage depends on the agreement, according to mortgageloan.com.

Upon sale, the parents could recoup their entire investment or even make more if the value of the house rises. On the other hand, if the home isn’t well maintained or if prices drop, parents could lose their investment.

The key is frank communication between family members and an agreement that all parties understand and agree to. The agreement might require the kids to sell the home by a certain date, or it might require them to refinance. It should also spell out what will happen if the kids default on the mortgage. Will the parents take ownership of the property, or will they lose their investment?

What if real estate prices drop, leaving everyone with less money than they started with?

What are the general maintenance requirements that all parties agree to?

What say will parents have over optional remodeling?

Perhaps for these risks, this type of mortgage is unusual. Today many alternatives exist for first-time home buyers, including FHA loans and special state programs.

The One-Year Plan for better credit:

1. Go to annualcreditreport.com and get a free report. Correct any errors.

2. Pay your bills on time. You must never be late even once. Set up automatic payments.

3. Work on getting your credit balances below 30 percent of your maximum credit limit.

4. Do not apply for new credit, but if you are offered an increase in credit limits on your existing accounts, take it. This can raise your score, but remember you still need a clean record of payments.

5. Do not make new credit charges.

6. If you have unused credit accounts, don’t close them if you are planning to apply for a mortgage. That can actually make your score drop.

7. During your credit improvement year, don’t buy a car. Lenders don’t want to see buyers committed to several new, large credit accounts. Never finance a car before you apply for a mortgage. Never take out new credit card accounts before you apply for a mortgage.

8. Use caution with store accounts that offer a hefty discount on purchases if you apply for a card. Although some stores say they do not make a hard credit inquiry, a new account on your credit report is probably not what you need if you are trying to improve your score.
However, if your credit history is thin, you might take out a store account, providing you make several payments on time and then pay off the balance.

Problems with partners in a small business

Starting a small business can be a daunting task that has led about 1.6 million owners to seek out a partner to add leadership support or to help provide skills that they lack, according to Forbes magazine. While teams formed around a common business goal are likely to be well-aligned and full of trust in the beginning, there are many reasons the relationship can fill with doubt, frustration, and disrespect over time which can ruin a business quickly. According to Entrepreneur magazine, starting a business can be extremely stressful even without worrying about coexisting with a partner and differences in leadership style, skills, commitment, and even personal habits. All of these can cause tension.

Having two bosses with entirely different styles, for example, can negatively affect everyone in a company if they are sending mixed signals or spend too much time arguing. One might be a task-oriented disciplinarian that values efficiency and order over the laissez-faire, creative mindset of their partner who would rather make sure employees are happy and having fun. Perhaps the partners come from a background of management and design, respectively, and they tend to lead based on the skills they are already familiar with from their past. Each person will privately value their own perspective more than the other, leading to conflict.

As the initial stages of a startup wind down and time goes on, the commitment and personal habits of each partner become a more significant factor in maintaining a successful relationship. Two people will likely have different coping mechanisms and work-life balance priorities along with changing ideas on their role within a company. In this situation, it is incredibly easy for the 50/50 balance of a partnership to swing in one direction or another, leading to feelings of guilt or resentment as the inequality builds.

Although there is no perfect system, it is recommended that partners talk openly at all times about their expectations, feelings, and sense of progress while being careful to avoid unproductive ‘mudslinging.’ Be prepared not to find agreement on every issue, and the more willing partners are to discuss matters, the better their chances of long-term success. If an owner feels like there is an unresolvable impasse looming, they should consult with a lawyer on an exit strategy and be prepared to leave an unreasonable partner.