Monthly Archives: September 2013

5 Tips for Hiring a Contractor for Your Next Home or Remodeling Project

Finding the perfect contractor for your next home improvement project or remodel can feel like the quest to find your ideal soul mate:

  • Are they good listeners?
  • Will they show up when they say they will?
  • Are they committed to you?
  • Do your friends and family members like them?

The Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection are great resources for home improvement tips.  For more information, check out their websites.

Some meaningful things pulled from these sources that you should consider are:

Male Contractor in Hard Hat Discussing Plans with Woman in Room.Licensed to drill. Is your contractor licensed with the state and do they have the skills to do the job? Are they bonded and insured? Always ask for your contractor’s license number before you sign any contracts. Massachusetts law requires contractors to list their license number on any advertising, so if you don’t see a number, don’t bother contacting them.

But, just because a contractor is registered with the state doesn’t mean that they’ll do a good job. Which leads us to…

Get those references. It may be time-consuming, but it’s worth doing some legwork before you start any project on your home—after all, it’s one of your biggest (non-living) investments. Use your neighborhood email listserv, if you have one, or just ask  neighbors about their experience if you see them getting work done.  You can also use the web to research contractors through sites such as Angie’s List and the Better Business Bureau.

Get it in writing. According to consumer advocate Mitch Lipka, any job over $1,000 should be in writing and detail the job duration, start and anticipated end dates, overall job specs, and payment schedule. It’s typical to pay about one-third to one-half of the total price up front, unless you negotiate (and sign!) a different payment agreement with the contractor.

Once you do hire someone, make sure they understand your expectations about working in your home, such as your preferred (and practical) start and finish times and whether you’re okay with them using your bathroom.

Trust your instincts. Finding your contractor-soul mate involves careful research, but it also requires you to look within for those subjective impressions that should guide your decision-making process.. If, after looking at a list of closely qualified contractor candidates, you’re still not sure whether or not to hire someone, ask yourself: How does this person make me feel? Am I comfortable with them — and the idea of them working in my home? Do I trust them?

Headquartered in Boston, Bunker Hill Insurance provides home insurance to customers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Bunker Hill is a member of The Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in homeowners and auto insurance throughout the northeast.

Hurricane Preparedness Tips

It’s never too late – the big one could be right around the corner.

Following are some basic tips on hurricane preparedness to ensure that you aren’t caught off guard.

  1. Create a “Family Emergency Plan” – creating a Family Emergency Plan ensures that every family member knows how to reach or reconnect with each other.
    1. Post emergency numbers (fire, police, ambulance) by the phone. Teach children how to call 911 for help Identify family meeting places in case you are separated. Choose a place in a building or a park outside your neighborhood. Everyone should be clear about this location
    2. Develop an emergency communication plan. Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to serve as the family’s contact.
    3. Make sure everyone knows the telephone number of this contact.
  2. Assemble an “Emergency Supply Kit” – your emergency supply kit should include basic food supplies and water to keep you and your family going for a minimum of 3 days. In addition, you should have a 30 supply of medications that you or your family members may take.  More information on what to include is listed below.
  3. Make sure that you and family members are aware of evacuation routes and the location of potential emergency shelters in case you feel that it is prudent to leave your home.
  4. Don’t forget about your car!  Your car should be placed in a garage and away from flood waters.  You also should fill your car with gas in the event you need to evacuate.

Remember, forewarned is forearmed – so keep your ears open for potential weather coming your way. Generally hurricanes that impact New England come from the south and you will have several days notice prior to landfall. Check out weather.com or The Weather Channel on a regular basis to stay up-to-date regarding developing weather systems that may impact you.

An Emergency Supplies Kit Should Include:

  • At least a 3-day supply of water (one gallon per person, per day)
  • At least a 3-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food)
  • At least, one change of clothing and shoes per person
  • One blanket or sleeping bag per person
  • First-aid kit
  • Battery-powered NOAA Weather Radio (NWR) and a portable radio and extra batteries for each
  • Emergency tools
  • Flashlight, extra batteries
  • Extra set of car keys
  • Credit card and cash
  • Special items for infant, elderly or disabled family members
  • Prescription and non-prescription medicines
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger

Find additional safety and preparedness material:

Headquartered in Boston, Bunker Hill Insurance provides home insurance to customers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Plymouth Rock Assurance Corporation provides auto insurance to personal and commercial auto insurance customers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. They are members of The Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in homeowner’s and auto insurance throughout the northeast. Each of these companies is financially responsible only for its own insurance products. Actual coverage is subject to the language of the policies as issued by each separate company.

Renters Insurance and why you need it.

120_rentersAccording to a recent Insurance Information Institute survey, only 35 percent of people who rent have renters insurance for their belongings. This is in stark contrast to the 96 percent of homeowners who have insurance, usually a pre-requisite for getting a mortgage.

Who rents and who owns (and where). You can click here to see some quick and interesting stats on homeowners vs. renters in America.

Renters insurance isn’t expensive. The average policy typically costs around $200-$250 a year—less than your cell phone bill and a few nights out on the town (depending on your tastes and if you’re still on your parents’ family plan).

In and out. Renters insurance covers the things you own in and outside your apartment. Bicycles and smartphones are typical examples of items used outside of your home that are covered on your renters policy. Check with your insurance agent to find out what’s covered and what’s not.

Block ID theft. Look to see if your renters insurance policy has ID fraud expense coverage. Bunker Hill pays for any expenses you incur as a direct result of an identity theft—this optional endorsement makes renters insurance worth it for many people.

There are two main types of renters insurance:

  • Actual Cash Value – this is your most economical option; it covers your belongings but factors in depreciation (lost value of item over time).
  • Replacement Cost – this type of coverage costs more than Actual Cash Value, but pays the real cost of replacing your possessions, without accounting for depreciation.

There are also endorsements – extra coverage – that you can purchase on top of your standard renters or homeowners insurance. You may want to consider purchasing extra insurance if you own expensive jewelry, furs, collectibles, or other costly, hard-to-replace items.

To find out what a renters insurance policy will cost you, you can find a Bunker Hill agent in your neighborhood by clicking here.

Headquartered in Boston, Bunker Hill Insurance provides home insurance to customers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Plymouth Rock Assurance Corporation provides auto insurance to personal and commercial auto insurance customers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. They are members of The Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in homeowner’s and auto insurance throughout the northeast. Each of these companies is financially responsible only for its own insurance products. Actual coverage is subject to the language of the policies as issued by each separate company.

Bunker Hill – 6 Moving Tips for an (almost) Stress-Free Moving Day.

September is the month for moving Boston area. College kids are moving en masse to Mass, which means headaches (and some great trash picking) for the rest of us.

Get packing. Click around on The Learning Channel’s extensive moving day website, which features tips on everything from moving abroad to planning stress-free moves for plants, kids, and pets.

Also worth checking out: the popular website Buzzfeed posted some great tips on how to make your move a smooth one. The readers’ comments have some good ideas as well.

Six quick moving tips you will findMoving_Day on these sites include:

  1. Less stuff means less to pack (and unpack). Start to donate or sell your unwanted items online or at a moving sale at least two months before your moving day.
  2. Transplant plants into plastic pots at least two weeks before you move. Don’t water for 10 days before moving day. Or better yet, save the hassle (and potential deadly plant trauma) and give your greens away to friends and family—put down new roots (literally and figuratively) in your new place.
  3. Save on packing materials. Pack glassware and other delicate items in your clothing and socks—just make sure they’re clean first!
  4. One month before…Submit an address-change form with the Post Office; let friends and family know your new contact information; Organize essential documents and papers and store them in a safe place or bring them with you on moving day
  5. One week before…Transfer or close your bank accounts; transfer prescriptions to new pharmacy.
  6. One day before…Pack a carry-on bag with 1-2 days of meds, clothing, chargers, and other must-haves so you’re not stuck rummaging through boxes by flashlight on the first night in your new home

Make sure you have insurance. Chances are your landlord’s property insurance doesn’t include coverage for your belongings. Renters insurance is inexpensive and can replace your stuff if it’s stolen, lost or damaged. Find a local, independent Bunker Hill agent near you for more details. You can also take advantage of companion discounts if you have renters or homeowners insurance with Bunker Hill and car insurance with our affiliate, Plymouth Rock.

Headquartered in Boston, Bunker Hill Insurance provides home insurance to customers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Plymouth Rock Assurance Corporation provides auto insurance to personal and commercial auto insurance customers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. They are members of The Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in homeowner’s and auto insurance throughout the northeast. Each of these companies is financially responsible only for its own insurance products. Actual coverage is subject to the language of the policies as issued by each separate company.