Well, we’ve been here almost a week now and I think both Armani and I have settled in quite nicely. I have had three lessons with Kathleen Raine and just LOVE what I am learning. I thrilled that Armani is accepting his new training and the level of work as well.
There are amazing bridle paths and hiking trails throughout this community. I took what I thought was a 2 mile loop hike yesterday and ended up hiking more like 6-7miles. While I was tired, it was all good as I so enjoyed the scenery and weather.
That said, today is wet and chilly. However, I am taking Armani on a “hike” today on one of the bridle paths just across the street from the stable. We are hand walking the first time as he can be pretty spooky. Dogs rushing fences and barking etc may cause some drama, but he’ll get over it. So, today, we walk it together. Then hopefully ride it in the near future.
Next week the weather is getting quite a bit warmer so hopefully I can actually wear short sleeves versus a jacket.
There is only one way in and out of the La Cresta community, so it’s easy to forget that I’m only about 15 minutes from a large urban area. Taking Mike to the airport was a wake up call for sure. I am getting a bit used to the traffic and “rampant” commercialism. It was a bit of a culture shock as we got closer to LA when driving here.
There is so much to do for entertainment within an 60-90 minute drive, but for now, I’m enjoying my “little nest”, the beautiful trails and my horse.
Well, we’ve been here almost a week now and I think both Armani and I have settled in quite nicely. I have had three lessons with Kathleen Raine and just LOVE what I am learning. I thrilled that Armani is accepting his new training and the level of work as well.
While I usually blog something relating to real estate or the Northern Colorado area, I have decided to share a personal “adventure” instead.
I feel very fortunate to be in La Cresta, CA (near Temecula) until the end of March with my Horse, Armani. We will be training with Kathleen Raine, a two time US Olympic team alternate.
My wonderful husband was my co-pilot and navigator over the last three days driving with the Horse from Longmont, CO to LaCresta, CA.
He found a beautiful VRBO for me to stay in just 2 miles from the stable. I can be at the barn with the Horse almost all day for the next month. This is manna for horse lovers!
This area has lots of hiking and biking trails as well. I have brought my trusty mountain bike for some riding other than Horse riding.
We just arrived yesterday and my husband flew back to CO this morning, I have stocked the fridge, cleaned the car, and now off to the barn to spend time with Armani.
I must add that this is the first long trip with both my Horse and my Ford F-150 eco truck. Both did super well. The truck surprised both Mike and I. We were towing almost 8000 pounds and Billie Jean (the truck] drove like a champ.
More later once I’ve settled in and had my first lesson with Kathleen.
Some photos of where I am staying:
We constantly hear about housing costs and shortfalls along the front range. All of us are effected by it in some way. Rents are increasing as well. Traffic is increasing. But, what is the answer – if there even is one. I thought I’d share the article below with all of you. This measure, if passed, will definitely effect housing prices.
We have also been assured that interest rates will rise this year. These two factors will definitely effect housing affordability.
Proposed initiative to limit new housing on Front Range ignites fears in real estate industry
PUBLISHED: February 7, 2018 at 7:30 pm | UPDATED: February 8, 2018 at 9:09 am
A ballot measure to cap home and apartment construction along Colorado’s Front Range is undergoing a formal state review, setting off alarm bells with real estate agents and homebuilders.
“This will bring our economy to a halt. You don’t bring affordability to a market by reducing supply,” Scott Thorson, the chief operating officer at Oakwood Homes, said at the Colorado Association of Realtors’ Economic Summit on Wednesday in Denver.
Ballot initiative No. 66, which is awaiting a review from the Colorado Supreme Court, would limit permits for homes and apartments to 1 percent of the existing housing stock in 2019 and 2020 in Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas, El Paso, Jefferson, Larimer and Weld counties.
Proposed ballot initiative would limit new housing construction in 10 Colorado counties
KMGH – Denver, CO
After two years, the caps would remain in place unless 5 percent of the voters in a jurisdiction put a successful initiative to a vote. Denver, Douglas and Weld counties, which have seen new construction rates above 2 percent, could face some of the most severe reductions under the measure.
Matthew Leprino, a broker-owner of Leprino Homes in Denver, said the measure, if passed, would have devastating consequences in an already constrained market. He urged the crowd of mostly real estate agents to join CAR in opposition.
“Support the fight against it,” he said.
A housing study from Shift Research Labs estimates that metro Denver faces a shortfall this year of about 32,000 homes and apartments due to inadequate construction.
That shortage is driving up homes prices and apartment rents above income gains, fueling inflation and straining finances. Households making under $50,000 a year are collectively spending $2 billion more a year than if supply and demand had stayed in balance, the study estimates.
Builders at Wednesday’s summit said communities need to be looking for ways to make it easier to add lower-cost housing, such as permitting higher density development and reducing impact fees.
But concerns over overcrowding due to population growth also are on the rise. A measure in Lakewood to limit new construction to 1 percent of the housing stock gained enough signatures this summer to make the ballot there before running into legal challenges.
Thorson said while the days of being able to build a new single-family home for under $200,000 are long gone, Oakwood Homes is making a concerted push to bring its average price point under $350,000. Last year, it got it to $365,000.
If the caps were approved, the Front Range would see 26,050 fewer homes and apartments constructed over the two-year period, representing a loss of $7.8 billion in activity and a 10 percent reduction in construction employment, according to an analysis by Chris Brown, director of policy and research with Colorado REMI Partnership, submitted to the Colorado Legislative Council.
Brown said REMI studied the Lakewood limits, but whatever growth might have been blocked there could shift to other cities. If the entire Front Range is limited, that would restrict housing supply in the region seeing almost all of the state’s population growth and push that growth outward.
Daniel Hayes, who is with the Denver Futures Committee, and Wheat Ridge resident Julianne Paige are behind the initiative.
Hayes was behind Golden’s growth limitation measures passed in mid-1990s. Efforts to reach him and Paige before deadline were unsuccessful.
2017 was a great year, but this year at WK Real Estate, we want to do more than ever before. That’s why 2018 will be our year, it will be our time.#DoMore2018
The best homeowners insurance providers have the perfect mix of financial strength, coverage options, and customer service to keep you satisfied no matter where you are in the claims-filing process. Below are our top picks — we encourage you to use our tool to compare multiple rates and find the best fit for you.
We ranked the nation’s largest providers based on their customer service, coverage, financial strength, discounts, and endorsements. Our three favorites stood out for their exceptional offerings on all levels. Allstate has the best online servicing, with its ample guides and tools that provide invaluable and comprehensive information. It also offers a ton of discounts, with unique price cuts for new customers. Amica earned the highest rating in customer service and in unique savings available for paying online and remaining a loyal customer. State Farm will help you design an extremely detailed online quote and offers discounts for recently renovated homes.
Our Picks for Best Homeowners Insurance Companies
Best for New Homebuyers
Best Customer Service
- State Farm
Most Personalized Online Quote
Best Replacement Coverage
Best for Green Homes
Unique Bundled Deductible
Best for Boat Owners
Strongest Financial Outlook
How We Found the Best Homeowners Insurance Companies
We focused on large national homeowners insurance providers that cover all 50 states — with no special eligibility requirements.
While there are plenty of regional insurers whose credentials stack up against national providers, for this review we focused on the providers that are available to as many people as possible. And though it’s true that coverage from the same national company will vary from state to state, large national carriers are better equipped to handle claims in the wake of a disaster by calling in emergency response vehicles. When a disaster hits, their rolling claims centers, which are outfitted with generators, satellite connections, and agent workstations, can make all the difference in areas where power has been knocked out.
“Large national carriers are likelier to invest in emergency response equipment and technology, which gives them an edge. Self-contained mobile response vehicles allow claims adjusters to process claims right at the scene of the disaster. Having in-person access to your insurance company representatives in a time of need is very important.”
We couldn’t compare insurers with special eligibility requirements like USAA, which insures active and retired US military members and their families. USAA consistently draws high praise, so if you are eligible, we highly recommend getting a quote from them.
The best had to have high Financial Strength Ratings.
Since the whole point of insurance is to protect you financially, it’s vital that your carrier has enough money to pay out its claims — which, in the event of a natural disaster, can be sudden and massive.
The best way to compare financial solidity among carriers is to use Financial Strength Ratings from independent agencies. Among the major agencies, only A.M. Best focuses solely on insurance, so we required all companies to have an A rating or above from the firm. Then, because the Insurance Information Institute recommends getting ratings from two or more agencies, we also required a high FSR from at least one of the two largest agencies: At minimum “strong” (A) from Standard & Poor’s or “high quality” (Aa) from Moody’s.
This is where Farmers fell off, for having the worst ratings of all the national insurers: B++ from A.M. Best, which means they have a “Good” ability to meet insurance obligation. While it’s not a bad rating, it is comparatively disappointing when every other company was exceeding standards with “Excellent” or “Superior” ratings. With a weaker financial rating, the company is more vulnerable and thus has a higher chance of going bankrupt, and it’s more likely that the company will be resistant to satisfying large claims (like if your house burns down).
We examined coverage options and optional endorsements.
Simply put, there are six main categories that homeowners insurance covers: your dwelling, other structures, personal property, loss of use, liability, and medical payments. Within each category are particular coverages and exclusions. For example, water damage is covered under “dwelling” as a result of burst pipes or water heater but not as a result of heavy rainfall or flooding (though it can be separately added). And while water damage from the burst pipe is covered, replacing those pipes will not be.
General rule of thumb is that any damage from natural or national disasters, like earthquakes or war, will not be covered. Added to that list is fungi, contamination, wear and tear, and pests.
Flood insurance resulting from a storm isn’t part of a standard homeowners policy.Instead, it’s available as an additional endorsement from your company or in a separate policy from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Even if you don’t live in a floodplain, it’s a good idea to consider flood insurance: The Insurance Information Institute cites it as the most common and costly natural disaster in the United States.
Because the complete list of what homeowners insurance doesn’t cover is quite long, we also catalogued the available endorsements from each company. “Endorsements” are optional provisions that can be added to a policy at the owner’s discretion. For example, water backup coverageguards against damage from water or sewage flowing up from below-ground pipes, while extended replacement cost coverage increases the limit on your policy by 25-30 percent in case the materials needed to rebuild your home are more expensive than anticipated (such as when demand for them spikes following a natural disaster). The more endorsements offered, the more you can fill in any gaps your policy specifically does not cover — the earthquake endorsement is a common addition in Los Angeles, for example. Nationwide, Allstate, and Progressive offer the most endorsements out of all nine of our top providers, whereas GEICO offered the fewest, most standard provisions.
We built a map displaying the historical frequency of floods and severe storms based on data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA). If you live in one of the darker blue areas, look for the specific endorsements that apply to your region and which providers offer them. Texas, for example, has the highest count of natural disasters. If you live in a region often affected by floods and storms, you’ll want to look for a company that offers additional flood coverage or purchase it separately through the National Flood Insurance Program.
Customer service counts, too.
J.D. Power’s annual U.S. Household Insurance Study includes scores based on how well “customers rate the claims experience with their current homeowners insurance provider.” J.D. Power has awarded Amica its best in class customer service award for 16 consecutive years. Consumer Reports also published data from nearly 10,000 survey respondents who filed claims from January 2010 to June of 2016, in which they rated carriers on criteria including agent courtesy and prompt problem-free claims experiences. Amica (94/100) and Metlife (89/100) were the standouts, with scores above the rest in all categories from Consumer Reports readers.
A good customer service rating for a homeowners insurance company (80+ from Consumer Reports or 3+ from J.D. Power) will mean painless communication in every phase. You’re more likely to receive accurate quotes and sufficient coverage and be properly compensated for claims.
Shopping for a home insurance policy isn’t something anyone gets to practice a lot. You have to learn on the fly, and there’s a ton of unfamiliar information to absorb, especially for first-time homeowners. So in addition to comparing third-party ratings, we investigated their websites and talked with reps to find companies that made the process painless and gave us confidence in purchasing with them. GEICO disappointed us here. When we called to source more specific information about policies, they refused to answer any questions until we had given them detailed information about ourselves and our home. Translation: no sale, no information. In contrast, Allstate answered all of our questions politely and allowed us to end the call without signing over our social security. Its website does the same by providing plenty of advice on choosing the right policy type and coverage limits, all while happily acknowledging you might not be a customer yet.
We looked for unique discounts but didn’t factor in premiums.
Many people consider the cost of premiums to be the most important element in choosing a homeowners policy. We disagree. While it’s true that everyone can save money by comparing individualized quotes, what’s most important is being fully covered in a worst-case scenario.
Coverage varies greatly among regions, homes, and asset portfolios. If you and your neighbor called all the same providers asking for quotes, there’s a good chance the lowest option for you would come from a different provider than the lowest option for them. In short: There’s no universally cheaper carrier. For some context, premiums can range in price anywhere from $500 to $2,000.
You can value price, however, when it comes to opportunities for discounts. It’s important to note that not every discount available will apply to every buyer, like an age discount for those over 55. In general, the most significant discounts, like those for owning a fire extinguisher or being claim-free, are offered by every provider. However, there were a few that stood out: Allstate’s “new purchase” discount gives a small break to owners who are moving into their home for the first time (whether or not the home itself is new), and Travelers’ Green Home Discount knocks five percent off the premium price for homes certified “green” by the Leadership Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) organization.
With all of these factors in mind, we ranked the top nine homeowners insurance companies based on their customer service and resources, offering of endorsements, unique discounts, and financial strength. It’s best to get quotes from several of the companies that may offer benefits specific to your home.
Our Picks for the Best Homeowners Insurance Companies
Allstate: Best for New Homebuyers
For first-time homebuyers new to the world of home insurance, the number of technical terms and coverage options can feel overwhelming. To help you better understand the industry, Allstate’s website contains a library of best-in-class resources — everything from articles and videos to quizzes and infographics.
Particularly impressive was an online Common and Costly Claims tool that lets shoppers type in their ZIP code to see the most common claims in their region, complete with average dollar amounts for those claims. In Seattle, for example, Theft and Burglary is the most common type of claim. In Los Angeles, it’s Fire Damage. There’s also a startlingly realistic GoodHome home report that plays a Google Street View video of your home (or potential home) as it enumerates potential risks and gives local hazard data, plus prevention tips. A home in Kansas City, for example, lists Mysterious Disappearance (missing property with no evidence of theft) and Freezing Water as some of the most costly claims in the area. A home in lower Manhattan, on the other hand, faces costly claims like the negligent operation of watercraft that results in property damage or bodily injury. Tools like this make it simple to understand areas of your coverage for which you’ll want to increase your existing limits, or that you might need to supplement, because the risk is higher in your particular neighborhood.
In addition to easy-to-use resources, Allstate also has the second largest number of additional endorsement options. However, those additional endorsement options are fairly low-risk: insurance for expensive sports equipment, musical instruments, or your landscaping. Notably absent, however, is additional coverage options for earthquakes and theft of other property (vehicles, trailer, watercraft). If either of those are personal concerns, check to see if they’re already included in your quoted policy or look for a provider that offers endorsements for them (like Nationwide or State Farm).
Allstate’s tools and resources section also includes great articles and tip sheets on home safety topics to help you maintain your home and prepare for risks. You can utilize all of these tools and information without signing up for anything or feeling like there’s a sales agent at the end of them. Other providers’ resources specific to homeowners insurance were nothing special — a few articles, glossaries, or an FAQ. With those insurers, if you have more questions about fees, coverage, and the claims process, you’ll have to look elsewhere or speak with an insurance agent.
Allstate also offers the largest volume of discounts (11 total) of the companies on our list, including standard discounts like hosting smoke alarms, fire extinguishers, or deadbolt locks. But it’s also are the only company that offers discounts for signing up before your current policy expires and a discount for new customers during the first two years they’re insured.
Amica: Best Customer Service
Amica consistently ranks among the top homeowners carriers for J.D. Power and Consumer Reports due to its sky-high customer satisfaction. In fact, Amica was the only one of our top providers that received a 5/5 in every category from J.D. Power. This is a particularly impressive feat when it comes to “claims factor” — a rating based on customer satisfaction with the settlement, estimation, and repair process — arguably the most essential time for good customer service. From Consumer Reports, it received a reader score of 94, two points better than USAA, the industry gold standard in insurance. With “excellent” scores in each category, you can expect timely and helpful interactions with Amica representatives and a relatively pain-free claims process.
Amica offers nearly as many discounts as Allstate, with exclusive discounts for being a long-time customer and for opting into e-bill paperless pay. That e-bill could be further discounted with Amica’s Dividend policies. As a mutual company, it’s owned by policyholders rather than investors or stockholders. This means that as a policyholder who chooses this option, you could receive a dividend at the end of the term between 5-20 percent of your annual premium — depending on the financial success of Amica during that term and their surplus after claims and expenses. These policies will have slightly higher premiums, without the guarantee of a dividend payout.
The online tech is a bit dated, with a more bare-bones site that only details the basics of its policies and discounts. It offers less than Allstate’s abundant and interactive resources, but with Amica’s renowned customer service you won’t begrudge a quick phone call.
State Farm: Most Personalized Online Quote
State Farm writes more homeowners insurance policies than any other carrier in America — which speaks to its exceptional customer retention. Though not as comprehensive as Allstate’s offerings, State Farm’s tools, discounts, and resources are all top-notch. Its Simple Insights blog provides tips for homeowners on everything from fire prevention and home security strategies to house shopping and landlord advice. Many topics even feature video tutorials.
State Farm offers standard discounts for installing certain protective devices in your home, such as smoke detectors and fire alarms. However, you won’t get any price breaks based on the age of your home, even if it’s newly built. Similarly, State Farm doesn’t provide discounts for new homeowners or for homeowners who have recently completed renovations, both of which are offered by Allstate, Safeco, and Amica. If you’re a newer homeowner or your house recently received a face-lift, it might pay to shop around elsewhere. One exception: If your roof was built using impact-resistant roofing products, State Farm does offer a unique discount for that particular renovation.
As with other companies, you can get a quote online. But State Farm’s process involves extra-detailed questions about the construction of your home, down to the percentage of carpet-covered floors and the number of corners in your home’s framing. We recommend arming yourself with floor plans, your insurance history, a home inventory, and specific details of your home’s construction so there won’t be any surprises when it’s time to sign a policy contract.
Nationwide: Most Endorsements
Of our top picks, Nationwide offers the most options for additional coverage. These extra endorsements include standard additions like earthquake, flood, and umbrella liability, as well as more uncommon coverages like ordinance insurance that helps rebuild older homes to current building codes when damaged. In cases where your roof has been damaged, there’s a Better Roof Replacement option where you’ll be reimbursed for investing in material and construction that rebuild a stronger roof than you had before. To take advantage of this, however, two things are required: severe roof damage that would warrant an entire replacement, and a substandard existing roof.
We also like Nationwide’s Brand New Belongings coverage, which will apply to nearly every homeowner. Essentially, it’s a rebranding of the standard extended replacement coverage; Rather than reimbursing you for the depreciated value your item had when it was lost/stolen, you get the funds to purchase that item brand new. However, with Nationwide’s program, you get funds up front (at their actual, lower value), and they’ll cover the difference it takes to buy the item new. Its designed to immediately give you partial reimbursement for replacing or repairing items, and then full reimbursement once receipts are received post-purchase.
Nationwide ranks average in customer service and hosts a fairly simple online quote process. On the Better Business Bureau website, customer reviews mention that quotes from Nationwide tend to be more expensive than the competition. We always recommend shopping around for quotes, but if price is your main consideration you may want to skip Nationwide. For homeowners interested in full and specific coverage endorsements, it’s worth screening a policy.
MetLife: Best Replacement Coverage
MetLife’s website pales in comparison to our other providers’ sites, with nothing more than a landing page and a mini FAQ that answers just seven standard questions. And if you’d like to compare quotes online, you’ll have to live in one of the 10 states that offer digital policies. However, MetLife redeemed itself with a standard coverage offering that’s exceedingly rare in today’s market: guaranteed replacement cost coverage for both structure and contents.
This means that if your home and everything inside are completely destroyed, your MetLife policy guarantees the full cost of replacing them. Other providers typically only offer extended replacement cost coverage, which means the insurance company will only pay 25 to 50 percent more than the value of the home. For example, let’s say your home is valued at $250,000, but it costs $500,000 to replace. With guaranteed replacement coverage, MetLife will pay the full $500,000 cost to replace your home, while other providers might only pay up to $425,000. In a worst-case scenario, that extra coverage can make a real difference.
Metlife also wins points for its timely payouts and claims-filing experience. Its Consumer Reports Reader Score was a solid 89, second only to Amica.
Travelers: Best for Green Homes
Travelers home insurance provides a great selection of discounts, including a green home discount that other providers don’t offer. You can save five percent if your home is certified “green” by the Leadership Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) organization. LEED-certified homes will have sustainable construction and utility systems, plus community resources (transit access, trails) that all echo an environmentally-conscious lifestyle.
Like most insurers in the industry, Travelers home insurance also offers price breaks to homeowners who install protective devices in their homes, including burglar and fire alarms, deadbolts, and fire extinguishers. It also offers discounts for new homes, newly renovated homes, and new homeowners. If you maintain your policy without a claim for an agreed period of time, you can earn another price break.
Safeco: Unique Bundled Deductible
Safeco stands out for its two unique coverage options. If you insure your home and car through Safeco, you’re eligible for the “single loss deductible,” which allows you to pay only one deductible in the event of multiple losses. For example, if both your home and car are damaged in the same accident, you’re only required to pay the home deductible. Safeco is our only pick that offers this, and it could make a big difference in how much you have to pay in the event of a serious disaster.
Safeco also offers equipment breakdown coverage. If an appliance breaks beyond repair, Safeco will pay to have it replaced with an Energy Star-rated appliance of a similar quality, saving you from having to replace appliances out of pocket or purchase a separate home warranty.
While Safeco offers some coverage extensions you won’t find elsewhere, its discounts are disappointing. It offers the fewest in comparison to our other picks: just a few standards like multi-policy and a new home discount, with a single standout discount if you opt to pay your yearly bill in full (rather than monthly). If your personal profile qualifies for discounts offered by other companies (i.e. your home is security outfitted), there are options more savvy than Safeco. But if you already have insurance with Safeco, its bundled savings could be significant.
Progressive: Best for Boat Owners
Progressive’s service varies heavily by state. As the company explains it, “Insurance through the Progressive Home Advantage® program is underwritten by select companies that are not affiliates of Progressive and are solely responsible for claims, including Homesite Group Incorporated, IDS Property Casualty Co., and ASI Lloyds, and their affiliates.” Basically, Progressive isn’t selling its own homeowners insurance directly, but has partnered with a company (the one that will pay your claim), in order to offer that insurance to their customers. If you’re already a Progressive customer, no need to stray. If you’re considering it, be aware that depending on who your policy is affiliated with, your options for discounts and coverage will vary by state.
That being said, Progressive is still a solid provider with fair customer service ratings — in the 2016 J.D. Power study, they ranked alongside State Farm and Allstate. It offers a unique Inflation Guard endorsement that will dynamically adjust coverage amounts to keep up with inflation, so the money you’ll need for repairs will be sufficient even as the market’s construction costs rise. Progressive also offers a watercraft endorsement that allows you to extend your personal liability and medical coverage to small sailboats and motor boats.
GEICO: Strongest Financial Outlook
Like Progressive, GEICO uses partner affiliates for homeowners insurance, rather than underwriting directly. So when getting a quote through GEICO, it’ll automatically pair you with one of its partners at some point during the online quote process. When it’s time to make a claim, GEICO will direct you to contact information for the company that sponsors your policy. Basically, the company is a middleman that exists almost exclusively to provide insurance for customers who already have GEICO auto insurance (which the company underwrites itself).
While all of our top picks have excellent or superior financial outlook, GEICO received the highest possible financial strength ratings from both A.M. Best (A++) and S&P (AA+), plus one of the best from Moody’s (Aa1) — a good indication that the company will be around long term.
On the other hand, GEICO was the most difficult when we called companies to “shop around.” Representatives refused to answer any of our questions without our detailed personal information and financial details. In other words, unless you’re ready to get a quote and purchase from them, don’t expect a comprehensive phone call. When comparing these national companies, we valued good customer service over financial strength, as it’s unlikely these mega corporations will truly suffer financially — which is why GEICO appears so low in our recommendations. GEICO rates better when it comes to their own auto insurance, so if you’re already partnered with them, it may be worth staying put. But if you’re looking for homeowners exclusively, consider pulling quotes from a few of our other picks.
Did You Know?
If you make a claim on your insurance, your premiums will rise the following year.
Think carefully before filing a claim on your homeowners insurance, as it will directly affect the amount you’ll pay going forward. That increase can be as high as 20 percent, as you’re shifted into a “high risk” category if you have two claims within three years, or three claims within five years. And it could be another five years before those claims drop off your record and the premium prices decrease.
Calculate rebuilding costs to prevent underinsurance.
If you already have homeowners insurance, there’s a 50-50 chance you’re underinsured. Many people mistakenly insure their home based on the amount they paid for it, when the true cost of rebuilding is significantly higher. “If you have a mortgage, your lender may only require you to purchase a policy with enough coverage to protect their interest — particularly if you have a low balance,” says Christina Moore, a compliance and risk management VP at SWBC. “But in the event of a substantial or total loss, the cost of rebuilding your property could be much more, leaving you with potentially large out-of-pocket expenses.”
Your coverage should be enough to rebuild the structure in the event that it’s totally destroyed, even if prices for supplies go up following a disaster. To get a rough idea of what you need, multiply your home’s square footage by the prevailing cost of building materials in your area.
Homeowners insurance covers disasters; Home warranties cover mechanical breakdowns.
Homeowners insurance is there to protect you from financial ruin in the event of a disaster, not to cover normal wear and tear. A home warranty, on the other hand, covers the mechanical breakdown of systems in the home, like plumbing and electricity. Sound like something you want? Check out our home warranty review.
Best Homeowners Insurance: Summed Up
|Homeowners Insurance||The Best|
|Allstate||For New Homebuyers|
|State Farm||Most Personalized Online Quote|
|Travelers||For Green Homes|
|Safeco||Unique Bundled Deductible|
|Progressive||For Boat Owners|
|GEICO||Strongest Financial Outlook|
Calculate your home’s reconstruction cost. In the event of a disaster, it’s vital that the amount of coverage you have is right — that’s what’s going to pay for your repairs and/or a full rebuild. Your coverage limits for personal belongings and other structures are related to the amount of coverage on your dwelling, so you’ll have better protection for all your property if you lift your dwelling limit.
Catalog your belongings. “I recommend that people create video evidence of all their belongings, as well as the inside and outside of their home,” says Jeffrey D. Diamond, adjunct professor of insurance law at Georgia State University College of Law. The Insurance Information Institute also offers a free online tool that makes it easy to remember everything you need to catalog, and then keep it stored online. “The more ways in which you can establish and prove the features of your home, as well as the quality and quantity of your personal property before a loss occurs,” Diamond adds, “the better your homeowners insurance coverage will serve you at the time of need, if and when the need arises.”
Get a few quotes by phone. “Calling around to obtain quotes will take some time, but it is worth it to compare coverage and rates,” says Moore. Unlike auto insurance quotes, homeowners insurance quotes are more accurate when you call. The online tools are attractive because they make it appear easy to compare quotes from multiple carriers at once, but they often oversimplify in their information collection. For instance, you might be eligible for a discount from a certain carrier that wasn’t factored into the comparison, or you might want a specific endorsement it didn’t ask about. Call, go through each carrier’s specific questions, and then you’ll receive quotes that are worth comparing.
The Best Homeowners Insurance by State
Every state has different insurance providers, as well as unique circumstances that affect policies and coverage. We’ll be reviewing the five largest providers in every state using a methodology similar to the one for this review on nationwide providers. Check back soon to see if your state has been reviewed yet.
More Homeowners Insurance Reviews
We’ve been digging deep into homeowners insurance for several years now, and have published additional reviews. However, we haven’t finished updating them to be consistent with our latest round of research. Be on the lookout for updates in the upcoming weeks.
Article by BILL BISCHOFF
The Tax Cut and Jobs Act was passed by Congress and will be signed by President Trump. The final bill reflected some compromises and is substantially different than the earlier House and Senate bills. The new law includes many expected changes, some unexpected ones, and some changes that were expected but didn’t make the cut. Here are the most important things that individual taxpayers need to know.
- New individual tax rates and brackets
For 2018 through 2025, the new law keeps seven tax brackets, but six are at lower rates. In 2026, the current-law rates and brackets would return. The temporary rate brackets under the new law are as follows.
|10% tax bracket||$0 – $9,525||$0 – $19,050||$0 – $13,600|
|Beginning of 12% bracket||$9,526||$19,051||$13,601|
|Beginning of 22% bracket||$38,701||$77,401||$51,801|
|Beginning of 24% bracket||$82,501||$165,001||$82,501|
|Beginning of 32% bracket||$157,501||$315,001||$157,501|
|Beginning of 35% bracket||$200,001||$400,001||$200,001|
|Beginning of 37% bracket||$500,001||$600,001||$500,001|
Most folks will benefit from the new rates, but some who are currently in the 33% marginal tax bracket will find themselves in the 35% marginal bracket next year. This unfavorable change will mainly affect singles and heads of households with taxable income between $200,000 and $400,000. However, the new lower rates on income below $200,000 will offset some or all of the negative effect of being in the 35% marginal bracket. For comparisons, see the table at the bottom of this story for the 2017 rate brackets.
Year-end planning impact: Most individuals will benefit from year-end planning moves that push income into next year and pull deductions into this year.
- No change in taxes on long-term capital gains and dividends
The new law retains the existing 0%, 15% and 20% tax rates on long-term capital gains and dividends. For 2018, the rate brackets are as follows.
|0% tax bracket||$0 – $38,599||$0 – $77,199||$0 – $51,699|
|Beginning of 15% bracket||$38,600||$77,200||$51,700|
|Beginning of 20% bracket||$425,800||$479,000||$452,400|
Year-end planning impact: These brackets are almost the same as what they would have been under old law, with the only change being in the way the inflation adjustment for 2018 is calculated. Therefore, the traditional year-end tax planning strategies for securities held in taxable brokerage firm accounts still apply.
- No mandatory FIFO stock basis rule
Starting next year, the Senate version of the tax reform bill would have forced you to use the first-in-first-out (FIFO) method to calculate the tax basis of shares that you sell from taxable accounts. If the price of the shares stair-stepped higher as you bought them, having to use the FIFO method would have meant that your taxable gain would be figured by treating the oldest and cheapest shares as being sold first. That would maximize your gain and maximize the resulting tax hit. Fortunately, this proposed change didn’t make the cut, so it’s business as usual.
Year-end planning impact: None. You need not sell shares before year-end just to avoid the now-discarded mandatory FIFO stock basis rule. Good!
- Higher standard deductions, but no more personal and dependent exemption deductions
The new law almost doubles the standard deduction amounts, starting in 2018. However, personal and dependent exemption deductions, which would have been $4,150 each for 2018, are eliminated. Obviously, these changes will benefit some taxpayers and harm others. If you have many dependents, you may not be pleased. The 2018 standard deduction amounts are as follows.
- $12,000 for singles (up from $6,350 for 2017)
- $24,000 for joint-filing married couples (up from $12,700)
- $18,000 for heads of households (up from $9,350)
Additional standard deduction amounts for the elderly and blind are still allowed.
- New limits on deductions for state and local taxes
Under old law, you could claim an itemized deduction for an unlimited amount of personal state and local income and property taxes. You could also choose to forego any deduction for state and local income taxes and instead deduct state and local general sales taxes.
Starting next year, the new law limits your deduction for state and local income and property taxes to a combined total of $10,000 ($5,000 if you use married filing separate status). Foreign real property taxes can no longer be deducted. So no more property tax write-offs for your place in Cabo. However, you can still choose to deduct state and local sales taxes instead of state and local income taxes.
Year-end planning impact: Traditional year-end tax planning advice includes prepaying state and local taxes that would otherwise be due early next year. That way, you get a bigger deduction on this year’s return. However, the new law says you cannot get any tax-saving benefit from using this strategy to prepay state and local income taxes. Specifically, you cannot claim a 2017 deduction for state or local income taxes that are imposed for a tax year beginning after Dec. 31, 2017. How this rule could be enforced is a mystery. The good news: you can still prepay state and local property taxes before year-end and claim a 2017 deduction. That could be a really good idea in view of the new $10,000/$5,000 deduction limitation that takes effect next year. However, if you will be an alternative minimum tax (AMT) victim this year, deductions for state and local property taxes (prepaid or otherwise) aren’t allowed under the AMT rules. So prepaying could do you little or no tax-saving good.
- New limits on home mortgage interest deductions
Effective next year, the new law reduces the maximum amount of mortgage debt to acquire a first or second residence for which you can claim itemized interest expense deductions from $1 million (or $500,000 if you use married filing separate status) to $750,000 (or $375,000 if you use married filing separate status). However, this change doesn’t affect home acquisition mortgages taken out under binding contracts in effect before Dec. 16, 2017 as long as the home purchase closes before April 1, 2018.
Also, the old-law $1 million/$500,000 limits continue to apply to home acquisition mortgages that were taken out under the old-law rules and are then refinanced after this year (as long as the refinanced loan principal doesn’t exceed the old loan balance at the time of the refinancing). Starting next year, the new law also eliminates the old-law rule that allowed interest deductions on up to $100,000 of home-equity loan balances.
- No change in home sale gain exclusion rules
The new law preserves the valuable break that allows you to potentially exclude from federal income taxation up to $250,000 of gain from a qualified home sale, or $500,000 if you are a married joint-filer. The earlier House and Senate bills both included restrictions on this break, but none of the proposed changes made the cut. So it’s business as usual. Good!
- Expanded medical expense deduction for 2017 and 2018
The House version of the tax reform bill would have killed the itemized deduction for medical expenses. Instead the new law preserves the deduction and actually expands it to cover medical expenses in excess of 7.5% of adjusted gross income (AGI) for 2017 and 2018 (the old-law deduction threshold for 2017 was 10% of AGI).
Year-end planning impact: Since it is now easier to exceed the percent-of-AGI deduction threshold, consider loading up on elective medical expenses, such as vision care and dental work, between now and year-end if that would net you a bigger 2017 deduction.
- Education tax breaks preserved
The new law leaves existing education-related tax breaks in place.
Year-end planning impact: If your 2017 AGI allows you to qualify for the American Opportunity higher-education tax credit (worth up to $2,500 per qualifying undergraduate student) or the Lifetime Learning higher-education tax credit (worth up to $2,000 per tax return and covering most postsecondary education expenses including graduate school), consider prepaying tuition bills that are due in early 2018 if that would result in a bigger credit on this year’s Form 1040. Specifically, you can claim a 2017 credit for prepaying tuition for academic periods that begin in January through March of next year.
- Other important changes and non-changes
- Starting next year, you will not be able to reverse the conversion of a traditional IRA into a Roth account. Under the old-law rules, you had untilOctober 15of the year after an ill-advised conversion to reverse it and avoid the conversion tax hit. At this point, it is not clear if this change would prevent you from reversing a 2017 conversion by 10/15/18or if would only prevent you from reversing a conversion done in 2018 and beyond. So if you have a 2017 conversion that you already know you want to reverse, get it reversed before year-end to be on the safe side.
- Unfortunately, the new law retains the individual alternative minimum tax (AMT), but the AMT exemption deductions are significantly increased and phased out at much higher income level, starting next year. For many folks AMT exposure was caused by high itemized deductions for state and local income and property taxes and lots of personal and dependent exemption deductions. Those breaks were disallowed under the AMT rules. With the new limits in deductions for state and local taxes, the elimination of personal and dependent exemption deductions, and larger AMT exemption deductions, many previous victims of the AMT will find themselves off the hook, starting next year.
- Starting next year, the maximum child credit is increased to $2,000 per qualifying child, and up to $1,400 can be refundable (meaning you can collect it even if you don’t owe any federal income tax). In addition, a new $500 nonrefundable credit is allowed for qualified non-child dependents.
- Starting next year, deductions for moving expenses and most miscellaneous itemized expenses are eliminated.
- Starting next year, itemized deductions for personal casualty and theft losses are eliminated, except for personal casualty losses incurred in a federally-declared disaster.
- Starting in 2019, you will no longer be able to deduct alimony payments if they are required by a divorce agreement entered into after12/31/18. Recipients of nondeductible payments won’t have to include them in taxable income.
- Tax breaks for adoption expenses are preserved.
- The tax credit for qualified plug-in electric vehicles is preserved. For details on this credit, see: You can get a $7,500 tax credit for a new electric vehicle.
- Starting next year, the unified federal gift and estate tax exemption will basically double — to about $11.2 million or $22.4 million for a married couple. Wow! That is indeed a tax break for the rich.
The last word
This isn’t really the last word. For the next few months, you will see many more words about other changes in the new law along with more details and analysis and tax planning strategies. My next column will cover the 10 most important changes for small-business owners. So please stay tuned.
Table: 2017 individual federal income tax brackets
|0% tax bracket||$0 – $9,325||$0 – $18,650||$0 – $13,350|
|Beginning of 15% bracket||$9,326||$18,651||$13,351|
|Beginning of 25% bracket||$37,951||$75,901||$50,801|
|Beginning of 28% bracket||$91,901||$153,101||$131,201|
|Beginning of 33% bracket||$191,651||$233,351||$212,501|
|Beginning of 35% bracket||$416,701||$416,701||$416,701|
|Beginning of 39.6% bracket||$418,401||$470,701||$444,551|
‘Tis the season to celebrate family, friends and all the good in the world. Here in Boulder County we’re lucky to have some of the best hikes in the world right at our fingertips. What better way to enjoy those holiday cookies at the company party guilt free than by going on a scenic hike that’s good for both the body and soul?
The Royal Arch Trail can be found in Boulder’s Chautauqua park and is one of the most popular routes from this central trail head. At about 0.8 miles in length, the Royal Arch Trail provides gorgeous side views of the flatirons and a vigorous uphill walk.
The Mt. Sanitas Trailhead is located in downtown Boulder at the intersection of 4th and Mapleton. This hike is well known by Boulder locals for its fantastic views and prairie-like scenery. The 3-mile round trip route starts with a steep incline, granting breathtaking views of the city of Boulder and beyond at the summit. The trail then descends steeply before leveling out for a great cool-down before finishing the trail. For an easier hike, you can also choose the Dakota Ridge path accessed from the same trailhead.
The Full Mesa Trail is a great option if you’re interested in a longer, more difficult hike. It’s popular with trailrunners and spans a full 7 miles end-to-end. Starting from either Chautauqua or the South Mesa trailhead, it’s a great choice if you’re if you’re looking for an extra challenge.
Located off of Baseline road, the Dry Creek Trail is a flat one-mile walk that will take you through grasslands just east of Boulder. This is known to be very dog friendly space and dog walkers populate a large majority of those on the trail. Expect a nice walk alongside a creek and great views of the flatirons!
You can find this hike in South Boulder at the intersection of 93 and Marshall Road. This is a trail of moderate difficulty, also connecting to various trails that go through nearby cities. This trail is also used by mountain bikers and dog walkers, but it’s a great spot to enjoy some of our famous Colorado sun, even in winter!
Boulder is well known for being home to the gorgeous Flatirons, and here you have the opportunity to hike through them. Also found at the Chautauqua trailhead, this route is a little bit longer than a mile and will take you on an uphill, moderate trek. Fantastic views await you at the summit!
This trail will take you around the shore of the gorgeous Boulder Reservoir. The 5-mile loop runs the full length of the reservior, and also connects to the Eagle Trail and Coot Lake trails for an extension. This is a great place to bring your dogs or spend some recreational time post-walk.
Flagstaff is a popular road in Boulder leading to grand, sweeping views. Instead of driving it, take the hiking trail instead! You’ll find the trailhead where Baseline Road turns into Flagstaff. It’s a steady incline until the summit and, at over 6,000 feet, also exposes hikers to a higher elevation. This hike is definitely worth while if you’re interested in great scenery and a challenging workout.
The Shadow Canyon hiking trail is a longer hike taking you to South Boulder Peak. This is definitely a challenging trail, but like many other local spots, you can reward yourself with fabulous sights of Boulder’s flatirons. Also, expect to see picturesque wildflowers and streams on your way up, making it an even more enjoyable trip.
This hike provides both a walk through open plains and a delightful mountainous backdrop. Dowdy Draw connects to multiple other trails, making this the perfect spot whether you’re in need of a quick walk or a more lengthy expedition. Also favored by mountain bikers, this is definitely one of the most peaceful hikes in Boulder.
The Greenbelt Plateau trail is a great pick if you’re looking for a calm hike through the prairie alongside views of the South Boulder Foothills. Connecting to other trails, this can serve as a gateway to explore different parts of Boulder, enabling you to pick your ideal route and length of hike.
Bear Peak is known to be Boulder’s second highest summit featuring the best 360° unobstructed views of the city. This is difficult three mile hike, so prepare for a tough climb and excellent workout. The Bear Peak summit offers views and scenery definitely worth seeing.
Article by Christina Miroyan, Digital Marketing Social Media Intern at WK Real Estate.