Keep Yourself Safe When You’re Out on the Town

Portland, Maine is a fun place to live or visit. It has world-class restaurants, lots of music venues, and bars ranging from polished cocktail lounges to pickled-egg dives. While Portland is a generally safe city, it makes sense to protect yourself at night – especially if you have been drinking.

Here are some personal safety tips to make sure that you end your evening with only pleasant memories.

Avoid Excessive Drinking

Know how alcohol affects your judgement. Everyone is different; you know your limits better than anyone else. Stay well on the safe side of those limits. Trust servers or your friends if they tell you you’ve had enough.

Be a Good “Wing Man”

Look out for others in your party. Watch your friend’s drink if they need to step away, and never leave your own drink unattended. If you lose track of a friend in a bar, don’t assume that they’re OK. Find them, call or text them to make sure they’re all right. If you think they’re making a poor decision (driving when they shouldn’t, leaving with the wrong person, etc.), talk them out of it. They may not appreciate it then, but they will later.

Safety in Numbers

Walk in groups whenever you can, and stay in well-lit areas. Use sidewalks, and walk near the curb to avoid doorways, shrubbery and other hiding places. Look like you know where you’re going – even if you’re not sure. Walk with confidence at a steady pace.

Avoid Conflict

If you find yourself in an argument that seems to be escalating, walk away. Never carry an illegal weapon. Nothing escalates a fight more than a weapon, and someone can get hurt with it – even you.

Protect Your Valuables

If you use an ATM, bring a friend with you, and use an indoor machine if possible. When you’re in a bar, at a show, or in a restaurant, do not hang your purse or bag on the back of a seat. Keep your wallet in your pocket unless you’re paying or showing your ID. Although theft is covered by your Maine homeowners or renters insurance, your policy has a deductible, and coverage for cash is minimal under most policies.

Stay in Safe Areas

Avoid walking near unprotected waterfront areas, alleys or “sketchy” areas. Be aware of your surroundings and the people around you.

Take a Cab

Everyone knows not to drink and drive, but too many people still do. Walking or biking after you’ve been drinking can be just as dangerous.  Fortunately, Portland has plenty of cabs on any given night. Do yourself a favor and take one home or back to your hotel. The cab fare is a lot less than the expense of a DUI, or the loss of your car insurance discounts.

By using good sense, you can keep you and your friends safe when you’re out on the town.

Should You Stay on Your Parents Car Insurance?

graduationCongratulations, college graduate! You survived finals, senior week, graduation, and made it through the lunch afterwards without looking half as bad as you felt. Now, reality sets in.  In today’s economy, reality might involve swallowing your pride and moving back in with your parents until you can afford another option.

Here are some common questions recent college grads refer to our Greater Portland Maine Insurance Agency. If you live in another state, this advice may or may not be accurate for you.

Am I Covered Under my Parents’ Car Insurance?

If they own the vehicle, and it’s listed on their policy, anyone they allow to use it is piggybacking on their insurance. Even if you have your own car and insurance policy, the vehicle owner’s coverage is primary.

Should I Stay on My Parents’ Policy?

You should stay on your parents’  policy as long as:

  • Their home is your legal address, AND
  • You don’t have your own vehicle or insurance, AND
  • You live at home – at least part of the time.

Your parents have done a lot to help you over the years. Keeping you on their insurance is one more.  It doesn’t benefit them – in fact, it will probably cost them money. But it’s an important thing for you.

Being listed on your policy protects you at 3 Critical Times.

When You Drive Someone Else’s Vehicle.

Listing you on your parents’ policy reinforces that you are part of their household, and therefore an “insured”. Unless you’re an “insured”, you only have coverage when they’re driving THEIR vehicles, not anyone else’s. If you are an “insured”, your parents’ liability limits extend to you when you are driving a friend’s vehicle. Your friends probably have a lot less liability insurance than your parents. That could be important if you have an accident. You already have enough debt from college loans; you don’t need a judgment from a lawsuit on top of that.

When You’re Not in Your Parents’ Vehicle

As long as you’re an  “insured” (see #1 above), you’re eligible for their Medical Payments coverage. This covers you when you’re a passenger in another vehicle, or a pedestrian. Even more important, you’re covered by their Uninsured/UnderInsured Motorist coverage. For example, if you are injured in someone else’s car when it’s hit by someone with little or no insurance, your parents’ auto insurance will pay for your medical expenses.

When You Buy Your Own Insurance

When you do buy your first insurance policy, you will pay lower rates if you can prove that you’ve had continuious insurance. Insurance companies charge much higher rates to drivers who can’t show proof of prior insurance. A copy of your parents’ policy showing you as a listed driver is considered proof of prior insurance.

When Should You Get Your Own Insurance?

This varies from family to family. Because you might move in and out of the house; with or without a vehicle; to your own place or in with someone else; it’s best to talk to your insurance agent. They can advise you when it’s time to get your own auto insurance.

If you have questions, or would like a Maine auto insurance quote, contact a Noyes Hall & Allen agent at 207-799-5541. We are a Trusted Choice Independent Agency representing many insurance companies. This allows us to combine the power of choice with personalized professional advice.

Should I Keep My Child on My Car Insurance?

graduationMay is Boomerang Month for many college graduates and their parents. In today’s economy, most grads move back in with their parents for at least some time before going out on their own. Even after they get their own place, they often use their parents’ home as a stable legal address for some time.

Here are some common questions our clients refer to our Greater Portland Maine Insurance Agency. If you live in another state, this advice may or may not be accurate for you.

Is My Adult Child Covered Under my Car Insurance?

If you own a vehicle, and it’s listed on your policy, anyone you give permission to use it also uses your insurance. Even if they have their own car and insurance policy, your policy’s coverage is primary. It doesn’t matter whether that person is your child, your friend, or anyone else.

Should I Keep My Child as a Driver on My Policy?

You should list your child on your policy if:

  • Your home is their legal address, AND
  • They don’t have their own vehicle or insurance, AND
  • They live at home – at least part of the time.

You’ve done a lot of things to help your child, and this is one more. It doesn’t benefit you – in fact, it will probably cost you money. But it’s an important thing to do for your child.

Listing Your Child on your policy protects them at 3 Critical Times.

When they drive someone else’s vehicle.

Listing them on your policy reinforces that they are part of your household, and therefore an “insured”. Unless they’re an “insured”, they only have coverage when they’re driving YOUR vehicles, not anyone else’s. As an “insured”, your liability limits extend to them when they are driving a friend’s vehicle. Young adults don’t always buy enough liability coverage. Your limits will protect your child from a lawsuit.

When They’re Not in Your Vehicle

As long as they are “insureds” (see #1 above), they’re eligible for your Medical Payments coverage. This covers them when they’re a passenger in another vehicle or a pedestrian. Even more important, they are covered by your Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage. For example, if they’re in someone else’s car, a pedestrian or a cyclist, and are hit by someone with little or no insurance, your Uninsured Motorist coverage can pay their medical expenses.

Related Post: How to Choose Uninsured Motorist Insurance Limits in Maine 


When They Buy Their Own Insurance

When your child buys their first insurance policy, they will pay lower rates if they can prove that they’ve had continuous insurance. Insurance companies charge much higher rates to drivers who can’t show proof of prior insurance. A copy of a parent’s policy showing the child as a listed driver is considered proof of prior insurance.

When Should I Remove My Child from My Car Insurance?

This varies from family to family. Because children can move in and out of the house; with or without vehicles; to their own places or in with someone else; it’s best to talk to your insurance agent. They can advise you when it’s time to remove your child from your auto insurance policy.

If you have questions, or would like a Maine auto insurance quote, contact a Noyes Hall & Allen agent at 207-799-5541. We are a Trusted Choice Independent Agency representing many insurance companies. This allows us to combine the power of choice with personalized professional advice.

How to Be an Instant Insurance Genius With 1 Easy Move

Did you buy home, condo or renters insurance from one company and auto insurance from another? You’re not alone. Maybe you bought a policy online to insure your first car. Then, when you bought your house or condo, you found a local agent who found you a good deal with another company. Each of your insurance companies has probably solicited you for the part they don’t insure.

Knowing that combining your home and auto insurance is smart is one thing; actually doing it is another. The good news is, it’s not that hard. Having separate insurance companies may not have hurt you too much so far. Sure, you might have paid a few dollars more, or put up with the hassle of multiple insurance bills, but you didn’t feel enough pain to motivate you to combine them.

That will likely change in 2012.

It’s only May, but 2012 has already brought big changes in Maine home and auto insurance. U.S. insurers have lost money on property insurance for several years in a row, due to natural disasters, broadened coverage, depressed pricing and increased reinsurance costs. With today’s low interest rates, insurance companies’ investment income is depressed as well. As a result, homeowners and Maine condo insurance prices are increasing significantly, and underwriters have become much more picky.

The single best personal property/casualty insurance move you can make right now?

Combine Your Property and Auto Insurance.

Here are 10 reasons why you should bundle your insurance today:

1) Save Hundreds of Dollars
Insurers are increasing the “package discount”, making it more attractive to insure your home and autos together. Many companies have increased the discount from 10% to 15%, 20% or even 30% discounts. This can save you hundreds of dollars a year.

2) Better Homeowners Rates and Coverage
Insurance underwriters (the people who choose whether to accept or reject your insurance application) have become VERY picky about home insurance. If you’re buying a home anywhere near the water, you might be quoted a premium nearly twice what the prior owner paid. You might also have a wind deductible of $5,000 or higher, when the prior owner had a $500 flat deductible.  If you only insure your home with that company, you have no leverage with the underwriter.  Bundling your coverage “sweetens the pot” for the insurance company, and levels the playing field a bit.

3) Avoid Non-Standard Insurance on Camp or Second Home
They don’t call Maine “Vacationland” for nothing. Maine has the highest ratio of secondary and seasonal homes to primary homes of any state in the US. Preferred insurance companies have willingly insured these homes for decades, even if they didn’t insure your primary home. In 2012’s tighter property underwriting environment, many insurers refuse to insure these properties unless they insure your primary home and auto. We still have access to insurers who will insure a Maine secondary or seasonal home; but, the rates are higher, and the terms less favorable than those of the preferred companies.

4) Reduced Risk of Non-Renewal
The more business you do with an insurance company, the more likely they will consider you a preferred customer. If you have multiple claims in a 3-year period, your name appears on an underwriter’s list of policies to review. Will they consider you “naughty” or “nice”? One factor they consider is the number of policies you have with the company. They’re more likely to cut some slack to a multi-policy customer than to one with a single policy.

5) Increased Convenience, Reduced Risk of Cancellation
If you have policies with different companies, you’re getting billed by each, and paying a billing charge to each. Most insurance companies can bill all of your policies in one bill. They call it “account billing”. It saves you money (billing fees and postage) and time, and reduces the chance of a late payment by at least 50%.

6) Preferred Umbrella Rates
Many financial advisors are shocked to find how little liability insurance many of their new clients have. Most advisors recommend that their clients buy a Maine personal umbrella policy, which provide liability insurance in excess of their home and auto insurance limits. Preferred umbrella insurers require that they insure all of the policies that their umbrella extends over (called “underlying policies”). We have access to companies that provide umbrella coverage without insuring all of your underlying policies, but they’re usually more expensive.

7) More Favorable Deductibles
Some insurance companies require a higher property deductible ($2,500 or more) if they don’t also insure your autos. They will allow a lower deductible if you have other policies with them.

8) Improved Service From Your Agent
An insurance agent’s worst nightmare isn’t losing you as a client; it’s seeing you suffer an uncovered loss that they could have helped you recover from. The more they insure for you, the better they can help you identify and close expensive coverage gaps.

Let’s say your company starts allowing you to work from home. You might tell your auto insurance company you’re no longer commuting, to get a break on your car insurance rates. But you might not think to tell your home insurance company. When your home is broken into and your work computer stolen, or when a business associate visiting your home slips and falls, you could be shocked to find that you have no coverage for that. If one company handles both, they have the full picture, and can better protect you.

9) Almost Free Renters Insurance
Most Portland Maine renters insurance policies start at about $100 a year. Most Maine car insurance policies are about $600 per year. If you get 15% off each by combining them, you’ve saved $105 a year – in essence getting your renters’ policy for free.

10) Smug Self-Satisfaction
Isn’t it satisfying to read one of these blog posts, and say “Already done that!” Yeah, we thought so.

If you would like a Maine auto insurance quote, or would like to discuss your insurance, contact a Noyes Hall & Allen agent at 207-799-5541.

Buying Your First Home in Maine – Tips from 5 Real Estate Pros

Buying your first home is a big decision – probably the biggest financial move you’ve made so far. If you’re like most first-time buyers, you are on a tight budget; you may not be able to afford your “dream home” today. But, by focusing on the right factors, you may be surprised how close you can get.

To help improve your odds, it pays to consult an expert. In home-buying, that means a knowledgeable real estate agent who knows you and the area where you want to live. We recently asked some of our friends in the real estate business for their tips for first-time Maine home buyers. We think they’re worth keeping in mind as you look to buy a home.

Use Your Social Media Skills to Find The Right Real Estate Agent

Admit it…you cyberstalk other people, don’t you? Why not use social media to look for a compatible real estate agent? In addition to a web site, see if the agent and/or their real estate office has a page on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin or even Pinterest.

Frankee Chapa of RE/MAX Alliance in Westbrook Maine says “social media is a great way to get a first impression and help you find an agent who will fit your personality, making the whole home buying process much more enjoyable! While browsing, you may also stumble across posts with photos of homes, details or spaces you like, for example: open floor plan, locations, wrap-around porches, lakeside dock access, large family rooms, etc. Mention these when you meet with your agent to help them get your search started.”

Look at the Big Picture

Choosing a home is kind of like that old Serenity Prayer. You have to know the difference between what you can and can’t change about a property, and be able to focus on the important things. Of course, you already know the 3 most important factors in real estate: location; location; and location.

Mary Jo Cross of Legacy Properties, Sotheby International Realty in Portland agrees. “Try to look beyond the furnishings, peeling paint and other imperfections when looking at houses because there are many wonderful opportunities that are missed because of cosmetic flaws”, she says.

“If the home is in a great location, try to have some vision as to what it could look like with some tweaking. Many buyers make the mistake of buying a fixed up home in a marginal location and that will greatly affect the resale in the future. You can change the house but not the location!!”

Don’t be Afraid of a Dated House

April Cohen of the Maine Real Estate Network at the Maine Real Estate Network in South Portland  says “so many first time buyers walk into a dated home, are scared of the project and walk right out. A dated home doesn’t mean the house is not livable or in bad shape, it just needs to be brought into the 21st Century. Tracy shares a few tips to deal with some common dated features and gain A TON of sweat equity:

  • Paneling: There is a special paint that you can buy to paint over paneling. Pick an earthy/beachy color to make your home feel like a beach cottage!
  • Wallpaper: Not as hard as you think to remove. Vinegar and fabric softener mixed with hot water have been used to help remove wall paper! GOOGLE IT!
  • Colored Bath Tubs: Most hardware stores carry painting kits to paint bathtubs and surrounds. You can turn that avacado green tub white in an afternoon!
  • Cabinets: Just because they look dated doesn’t mean they aren’t functional. Sand them down a bit and paint them the color of your dreams for a fresh, fun kitchen.

Consider Borrowing Money to Improve a “Fixer-Upper”

Janice Selig of Allen & Selig Realty in Freeport says “loan programs such as an FHA 203K or RD/MSH loans allow you to finance repairs and renovations into your loan.  This allows you to buy a distressed property, foreclosure or short sale, which often will give you more house for the money”.

“If you’re handy, you can do many of the renovations, or hire professionals to make the repairs and start with equity in the home.  Depending on the type of property you may be in for longer closing time as many short sales can take months to get bank approval”, Selig cautions.

Personalize Your Offer

So, you’ve found the perfect house, at a price you can afford. This is the one! You’re going to make an offer! How do you increase your chances of it being accepted? Brian Linscott of Linscott Real Estate in South Portland says that personalizing your offer can make the difference between getting the house you want and being just another bid.

“Write a short two paragraph letter to the owners and let them know who you are, why you love the home and why the home is great for your family. The owners will be able to differentiate you from other potential buyers and if yours is the only offer, the owners will see you as a family and not just as numbers on an offer”, Linscott says.

Sometimes, insurance questions arise in the home buying process. Which Maine insurance companies accept knob & tube wiring? How much does home insurance cost in Maine? Which are the best insurance companies for coastal homes in Maine? If you have questions about Greater Portland Maine home insurance, please contact Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance at 207-799-5541. We represent many insurance companies, and are happy to advise you.