My First House!

donnahouse Several years ago, I was in the same position as many of our clients.  I was buying my “first home” and no clue about anything.  I didn’t understand what I needed for insurance.  I was hopeful that I was picking the right options when I asked my insurance agent for help.

From the day I opened my agency, 6/1/98, I promised that I would make sure every client understood what he or she was selecting when purchasing any type of insurance.  It’s important.  It is something that protects your financial future in so many ways.

For home insurance, it’s not about the price. It’s about the value. In your lifetime, you are likely to experience a loss that could devastate you. Make sure you are properly covered.

Know that we will ask you a lot of questions. The more we know, the better we can plan for what you need.  We will give you options that expand coverage and manage overall premium.  We will make sure all the proper documents are in your hands and on the mortgage lender’s desk BEFORE the closing date.  We’ll help set the premium up for “escrow” if that is needed.  We’ll explain some of the terms that you’ve never heard before.  We will make you comfortable by making the complex simple.  When you walk out of our office, you’ll be assured you have what you need.

Things we’ll cover:

  • Why Guaranteed Replacement Cost is better than Replacement Cost for your dwelling coverage
  • Why we always include Replacement Cost on your personal property
  • How variable deductibles can save you money
  • Why liability coverage is important, even though no one else ever mentioned it
  • Why “mortgage insurance” isn’t the same as “PMI”
  • Why you should always read about the exclusions and limitations in a policy
  • Why some of the “add ons” are truly important for your geographic area
  • Showing you maps of where sinkhole activity might occur in your region
  • Explaining unique losses for homes that are in community settings (townhouses, condos)
  • Explaining that backup of sewers and drains can happen on any level of your home
  • Explaining losses that can occur when your home has a sump pump (or two)
  • Tips to manage your risk in the future so that your premiums remain predictable
  • Applying discounts that you may not have even considered
  • Reviewing the exposure you may have for flood insurance on your new property

Most of us are excited to think about hanging flower baskets, baking cookies and decorating our new place.  Those are fabulous and fun things to do.  But before you launch into “nesting” mode, make sure the “bones” of your home ownership experience are solid with the right insurance program.

We’ve done this a time or two.  Let us help you with the parts that may be new and confusing.  Once that’s wrapped up, the really great stuff can begin!

For a complimentary review, call us at 610-530-0304 (Pennsylvania residents only)

KUDonna2Photo was taken with a purpose.  To win an iPad on a social media campaign for Kutztown University Alumni.  Didn’t figure out a way to include photo in a Linked In post…so I’m tossing it into this blog instead!

Bottom line.  It’s not about winning a device.  It’s truly about being grateful and appreciative for the opportunity to attend college.  The first in my family to do so, I wasn’t sure I could even manage it financially or academically.  But with the right “push” from some mentors, some awesome scholarship money, and a reasonable application of hard work…I graduated.  And there’s not a day that I don’t count my lucky stars to have had the experience happen at KU.

Thank you, KU.

toriThis is Tori.  She’s our newest Chick here at the Chixnest.

When we do our team’s annual performance review, I ask my Chix what they would like to do within the community.  This year, Tori chose something awesome.  She set us up to participate in the “LLS, Light the Night”, a walk at the local Shoppes at the Promenade in Center Valley.  It happens 9/27/15.

If you’re unaware, LLS stand for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  The walk funds research to find cures and ensure access to treatments for all blood cancer patients.  Much of the research also benefits other cancer research, too.

When I interviewed Tori, more than a year ago, she told me she was impressed with how much she’d read about our agency’s fundraising efforts.  She said it make her feel good about working at a place that “does good things” that help others.  Despite no prior experience or interest in insurance, Tori jumped full force into this unique and challenging industry.  She believed it was a place where she could “do good” in many ways.  She liked that we “make insurance FUN!” and participated in community events.

Please support her in her first jump into “doing good” with InsuranceChix.com this year!  If you’re able to walk (it’s less than a mile!) please sign up. We are hopeful all walkers raise at least $50 for the cause.  We want to see a SEA OF HOT PINK T-SHIRTS as we “walk the walk.”  (We provide the shirts, lol)

We also need a few sponsors to support the team by advertising on the back of our team T-shirts!  Call us 610-530-0304 for details on that opportunity.

You can register to walk with us (do it sooner, not later, we need to order enough T-shirts from Jane at Stitchin’ Witch Embroidery, LLC (thank you for your kind support on that part of this event, Jane!)  Here’s the link to register:  http://pages.lightthenight.org/epa/LehighVy15/InsuranceChix


arubaContrary to popular belief, rates don’t rise so that your agent can go to Aruba 12 times per year.  Truth be told, I’ve never been to Aruba.  Maybe one day soon.

Seriously, this is one of the questions that comes up multiple times per week at most insurance agencies.  Because a client may have a claims free record, he or she often believes a rate for home or auto insurance “should” reduce.  It’s not always the case.  It’s a difficult conversation.  In fact, it would be delightful if insurance rates worked that simply.  But they don’t.

The whole basis of insurance is that we are POOLING THE RISKS OF MANY TO PAY FOR THE LOSSES OF A FEW.  You are “sharing” in the claims experience of a similar group of policyholders.  There’s no way it would work if we just saved up one person’s premium and had it ready for his rainy day.  Think about it.  If one person’s homeowner’s policy premium is $800/year and his entire $300,000 home burns down in 3 years…or even 30 years…it’s not enough.  So instead, ALL the policyholders’ premiums are pooled together and all of their claims are paid from that “stash”.  If there are a lot of claims, a lot of money can be paid out very quickly.

In our local area, we have had some extremely severe weather events in the last few years.  Anyone remember the 5/14/10 hail storm?  We are a SMALL agency and we had $1,000,000 of payout on claims JUST WITHIN OUR agency.  Many of the claims were high payout claims.  Years ago, a house claim might have been an average of $3,000.  But with these kinds of storms, we had many of them in the $30,000 to $50,000 range as there were complete replacement claims for roofs, siding, etc.  Our area has many more “high value” homes than it did years ago.  In the past, many homes in our Lehigh Valley were cape cods, rancher style, smaller and less expensive dwellings.  Today, the average home is valued at $300,000 and when there’s a bad storm, it can be pricey to bring it back to “whole”.

Some of us want to believe that insurance rates would rise “just like” general inflation for other products like a loaf of bread or a new car.  It’s not that simple.  In addition to the inflation we do feel through claims costs (shingles and siding cost more, labor to install them costs more, car repairs cost more) we also must realize that the number of claims and the dollar value of those claims is a huge impact to the overall pricing.  With severe weather events becoming more frequent, we are seeing larger claims costs that are also part of the equation.  Remember, we are lumping folks into a “pool” of insurance and then the claims costs are shared among that pool.

There are also significant liability claims settlements for our area, on both the home and auto side.  People sue and courts may award huge payouts.  Think about swimming pool claims, dog bites, slip and falls, car accidents.  They add up.  There are medical bills to be paid as well as pain and suffering issues.  When this happens, total claims payouts are higher than what may have been “average” in the past.

Costs to repair vehicles and homes also continue to increase.  Even if your car is older than last year, the cost to repair it may be higher as parts and labor billed by the repair shops tend to rise over time.

It is with great delight that we introduced an auto insurance program that can “lock” your rate.  Ask us about it at your next renewal if you have not yet heard about it.  (Be sure to ask PRIOR to the renewal date)  We don’t have it for home products, nor do I think we ever will, simply because of the volatility the weather in our region presents.  Yet, we are pleased to say that homeowner policy rates in our area are still quite a bit less than in other areas of the country.

Can we help reduce your rate?  Sure.  We can tweak deductibles or adjust coverage options.  But please remember that insurance cost should always focus on VALUE and not price.  When you have a claim, you want to be sure the policy you’ve chosen is going to be able to protect you optimally.  This is not a part of your overall financial program where you should “go cheap”…instead, “go smart.”

Beware of “introductory rates” that some companies may offer.  If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.  We’ve seen carriers offer a super duper low rate for the first year and then it bounces up upon renewal, even though the client may be claims free.  We are happy to report that the rates of the carriers we represent are reasonably steady.  Over time, they are very stable.  And the service they provide at claims time is second to none.

As your agency of choice, we’re always happy to discuss your questions and concerns.  However, please know that we don’t “make” the rates.  They are scientifically based by really smart folks called actuaries.  We can’t “cut” the rates. We can’t adjust them just because we “like” you.  Rates are filed in Harrisburg and we have to abide by them as we are an agent FOR the carriers we represent.  As an agency owner, I also ask that you treat my team with respect when discussing this subject.  They, nor I, can “set” a rate.  We can advise, guide and explain options. Understand that if profanity or shouting comes into the mix, I am supportive of my team members discontinuing a call.  And for those of you who are surprised by this comment, please know that some folks truly do behave in way less than what would make their mama proud.  Grace and kindness can never be appreciated enough, so I thank 99.9% of you for being totally gracious, kind and awesome!

thankyouchickJune 1st was an important day.  Still can’t quite believe it’s true.  We just celebrated 17 years of being an independent insurance agency.  As you gasp about me being really old, keep gasping, because it’s also my 27th anniversary of “working in” the insurance field.  I had a life as a claims adjuster before I opened the agency.  So yeah, I’m pretty much “seasoned” by now.

Just want to say thank you to everyone who made the journey possible.  In the beginning, we had less than five folders in the cabinet…we checked the phone over and over again to be sure it was in service, we wondered if we would be around for our “five year” mark.  And here we are, rolling into our 18th year.  We are delighted to be a “flock” of chicks, five plus me.  We continue to grow our book of business and we have a solid retention ratio that indicates the loyalty of our clients.

We appreciate your trust in allowing us to craft your insurance programs.  We value your friendship.  We squeal every time you send a friend our way for insurance.  And we treasure the opportunity to help you when you have a question or a claim.

Never thought we could be at this anniversary so quickly.  Time flies when you’re having fun.  And this 17 year journey has been a supreme amount of fun.  Thank you so much for bringing us to this point.


lipbalm2So, every now and again, something promotional seems to be a really funny fit for our “brand” as InsuranceChix.

Lip balm.  Chickens don’t have lips, do they?  Some of the office team wondered if other names might be more appropriate.  Beak Balm, Chix Stick.  Chick Gloss. Brood Balm.  Let your mind wander. Got a better one?  Find our contest page and feel free to throw your name in the ring!  Here’s the link: https://www.facebook.com/events/822373401184551

The reason we’re doing a promo of these lip balms is because I found a lip balm in my drawer that never looked all that exciting, but I chose to use it one day because it was small and fit into my pocket.  Lo and behold, it was the best lip balm I’ve ever used!  Why?  It had SPF protection, no petroleum product in it, lots of natural ingredients and it felt, smelled and tasted amazing!  Moist and slick without being slippery!  And it had the taste and smell of a blue raspberry snow cone from my childhood!  It amused me more than the $7.50 per tube stuff at the specialty store in the mall to which I’d become accustomed.

Me and my friend Google spent a little bit of time together searching out the manufacturer.  Thinking that since I loved them so much, I’d be willing to place a multi-unit order, maybe four or five of them.  I quickly found that the minimum was quite a bit higher.  Wild giggling ensued.  Now what?  Even ordering a truckload, it was a reasonable price when you compare it to the $7.50 per tube price.  So I clicked and my idea was hatched.

So, now I’ve got a BOATLOAD of these guys.  I designed and ordered some labels, had an arts and crafts hour of stickering them, and now have some to share with family, friends and clients.  If you’d like one of these AMAZING and magical lip balms, call for a home or auto insurance review.  610-530-0304

Trust me when I tell you, you won’t want your old stuff anymore.  Love, love, love this stuff!

donnaclaraTime flies.  We hear that all the time.  It’s true.

Seems like yesterday that I was sitting on my grandmother’s lap…but it’s really more than 50 YEARS ago!?  How?

Back in those days, it seemed like only “old people” died.  Skewed thinking, of course.  My circle of friends and family was small.  Now, I know many more people through the business and other social circles.  Recently, it seems as if several folks pass away every week.  And too often, they seem to be in the prime of their lives. They’re not all grandparents who are 80+ and sitting in rocking chairs.  They’re busy, active  people with whom we shared coffee.  Smiling, happy souls who we banter with on the computer.  People JUST LIKE US.

Some of them are leaving people and things behind.  People who depend on them.  Things that require their special talents.  Financial obligations, too.

While life insurance is one way to help with the financial burdens, there are several other things that each of us should do to make the ultimate transition easier for those left behind.  It’s not something that we want to consider, but we must.

  • Have you prepared a will?  Do it.  Now.
  • Have you prepared a health care directive to help make end of life decisions for you?
  • Does someone know where all of your “important papers” are kept?  Deeds, vehicle titles, birth certificates, etc?
  • Do you have a list of your passwords available for those who may need to know?
  • Do you have a list of how you want to dispense items that could cause arguments among others?  (Jewelry, collectible items, photographs, things that would be sentimental to others?)
  • Do you have a list of all of your assets, including life insurance, retirement accounts, bank accounts, etc?
  • Do you have a realistic figure of what is owed on your home, cars, kids’ education, etc?  Are there funds to make sure these things are able to be paid?
  • If you are a key employee or business owner, are your tasks clear to those who will become responsible?

If you don’t yet have all these puzzle pieces in place, take an hour or two to brainstorm a list of what you need to do. JUST START.

Find a reputable attorney, accountant and insurance agent to help you craft a plan that will ease things for others. Don’t know anyone in particular?  Call me.  I know lots of good peeps who can help you with it.

And remember, even if you don’t do it all right now, it’s important to get started.  SOME is better than NONE.  If it’s “better than it was” when you’re done, it’s a win.


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