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Insurance-Based Tips To Prepare You For Hurricane Season


Last year during Hurricane Matthew, our home suffered flood, wind, and hail damage. Thus my first experience with insurance losses and claims began. 

From that experience, I have just a few quick insurance-based tips in case you have to evacuate with the hopes that they may be useful.

1. Photograph and/or video your whole property, inside, outside, grounds, secondary structures, and all of your contents/belongings.  I found that photos were easier to email to the adjuster than video, especially considering the adjusters may be working from iPads, laptops and smartphones from the field.

2. Print off your full insurance policies, and put them in a 3-ring binder, simply labeled by policy type (flood, homeowners, auto, etc).  Put this in your car so you are sure it makes it with you.

3. The moment you become aware of damage to your home that warrants a claim, call in the claim asap.  Getting in the cue early is likely to make a difference in how quickly you are serviced and contacted.

4. When you get home, photograph everything again to document the loss and damage.  This includes anything you are throwing out; photograph it BEFORE it goes in the trash, or your likely to forget.

5. If you have extensive damage, go room by room and take notes about what you see, what items got damaged, etc.  If contents are damaged and you’ll include them on your claim, try to make note of approximately when and where you bought them and how much they cost new.   All of this will have to be scheduled on a claim form, so it’s good to start that data process sooner than later.

6. Once you have an adjuster, save their contact info on your phone(s), and approach them professionally with courtesy and thanks for their help because they are the pathway to your satisfactory claim.   But also realize every adjuster is different.  My two were about as different as you could imagine…but I committed to doing all I could to make their work on my behalf pleasant and productive.

7. Document your calls, emails, texts, and meetings on a simple timeline list, including notes of what was discussed, etc.  Keeping a record is important because this kind of chaotic situation can be confusing.

8. Get your own estimates where and when possible.  The national-data estimating tools adjusters use might not take into consideration what local contracting and material costs are.  You are entitled to a fair claim, and usually the more info on the table the better.

9.  This was surprising to me, but your flood policy won’t cover loss of use so if you cannot occupy your home because of a flood loss, the cost of living someplace else is on you – not the insurance company.

10.  Recoverable depreciation, ordinance and law, advance money, and so many other technical components of the insurance world can impact the cash flow of your claim…so do your best to read your policies word for word, then ask questions and seek assistance where you are uncertain.  It’s a complex process to get through your claim, but certainly not impossible.  The more diligent and focused you can be, the more certain you’ll be that you got a fair settlement.


Are You Prepared For Hurricane Season?

Hurricane season is upon us! Are you prepared? Here are some tips to make sure you are Hurricane ready…

  1. Start running your ice makers TODAY. Bag the ice. Fill the space between your freezer items as much as you can. A full freezer will stay cooler longer, put extra bottles of water in any space left.
  1. Freeze regular tap water for pets, cleaning or drinking. Use Tupperware-type containers. REMEMBER to leave a small bit of space between the top of the water and the lids so the ice expands but doesn’t crack the container.
  1. Sanitize at least one bathtub and fill with water 24 hours before the storm hits. BUT TODAY MEANWHILE make sure your tub will hold water through a storm. YOU MIGHT THINK YOUR TUB HOLDS WATER but a twenty-minute bath is not the same as keeping filled for several days. Fill it with about 2 inches of water and check on it after a couple of hours. If the water is lower, replace your stopper and try again, OR fill several plastic totes and bins with water and keep them in the tub or a secure low-traffic area of your house.
  1. Start using your perishables TODAY to make more room for ice in the freezer.
  1. Gas up all vehicles, check tires and oil TODAY.
  1. Get cash TODAY from ATM (if power goes out, the machine will not work). Get enough to get you through tolls, out of town to get supplies and more gas later. Call your bank if you plan on leaving the state so they don’t freeze your card for out-of-area “suspicious” transactions.
  1. Screenshot and send to your email all of your important documents. Put originals in sealed bags or plastic bins. (There’s a lot to do regarding homeowner’s and renter’s insurance, not to mention flood insurance).
  1. Stock up on pet, livestock food and supplies. Have your animals’ records handy in case you need to shelter then at a storm-safe facility. Don’t forget to account them in your extra water.
  1. Share evacuation plans with family and friends so they know where you will be.
  1. Store family heirlooms and photos in plastic bins in a high place, second floor, attic, or safe room if you can’t take them with you.
  1. Keep old rags and beach towels on your windowsills. Even with the best windows and shutters, water seeping from the wind pressure happens. A few damp towels are better than soaked floors or drywall!
  1. Shutter windows, doors and bring everything outside into your garage or house TODAY. Do not wait until the day before. It is better to get it done early and relax than wait until it’s too late, ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE MANDATORY PERSONNEL (health care worker, emergency worker, or first responder).
  1. If you don’t already have your hurricane supplies (canned food, lamp oil, hurricane mix and rum, etc.), get them TODAY. Shelves are already empty in some places. Stock up on foods that don’t need to be refrigerated or heated up: jerky, nut butters, hummus (yep!), bread, juice, fruits and veggies with peels, dried fruit, granola/trail mix, meal bars, cereal, muffins…and don’t forget bottled water!
  1. Get propane or coal for your outdoor grills so you can still cook even if you are without electricity. Your gas stove won’t work without electricity too!! (There are electrical components that shut down with a lack of power for safety reasons).


Renovations: Friend or Foe?

We watch the HGTV flip shows. We know that renovations are good because, well, people like things to be new and up-to-date. But what should you spend the money on in your house? Is a drastic change in every room necessary to add more value to your home?

We are going to tell you what NOT to renovate and where to focus your money to get the most bang for your buck- in renovation budget AND in the resale of your home!!

As promised, before we dive into the great projects, lets point out the time AND money-wasters. Projects that won’t raise your home’s value include:

  1. Turning a spare bedroom into a home office (The new owners may want it turned back into a bedroom, or use it for an entirely different purpose. The key is to make it known THE POSSIBILITY of what is good for their family- not what makes sense to you)
  2. Conversion of a garage into a family room (You will lose ALOT of buyers doing this. People love garages. It’s one thing to expand your home and KEEP your garage, but to get rid of it entirely?? You are DECREASING your home value!)
  3. Screening an outdoor room (Unless you are making an “All Seasons Room” which is a room that has A/C and Heat then its a waste of money)
  4. Adding a deluxe kitchen upgrade into anything but an upscale home (Your renovations must match the caliber of home. Don’t place a million dollar kitchen into a $200,000 home and hope it sells for a million dollars. You will spend a TON on finishes and will be lucky if you even break even on the resale).

Projects that will boost your home value

  • Bathroom Update (BIG BOOST)
    Keep the plumbing where it is and focus on updating outdated fixtures. Strip the bath to the studs and put in a porcelain-on-steel tub with a tile surround, a tile floor, a durable solid-surface vanity, updated lighting, fresh plumbing fixtures and a new toilet. If you have a small bathroom, do a shower only and no tub.
  • Replacing siding (BIG BOOST)
    Give your house a new outfit by replacing the siding and you’ll reap the rewards at resale. According to the National Association of Home Builders’ Cost vs. Value, replacing 1,250 sq. ft. of vinyl siding and trim returns 95.5 percent of cost – and that’s the cost when a contractor does it for you. Upscale siding made from either fiber-cement boards or cellular polyvinyl chloride (PVC) lumber has an even more astounding 103.6 percent return. Subtract the cost of the contractor from the profit equation and you could actually make money installing your own siding before you sell your home.
    Painting can be a great investment in your home or a horrible mistake. It all depends on the color you choose. Pick right and you earn a big payoff. Pick wrong and you devalue your home. Don’t think you can escape the issue by painting the walls white. Soft, muted colors beige with white baseboards can still be neutral while greatly improving the look and feel of each room.
  • Rejuvenate Landscaping (RIGHT UP THERE WITH PAINTING)
    Your house never gets a second chance to make a first impression. Shabby shrubbery and a patchy lawn make people assume the inside of your house looks as bad as the outside. “Keep improvements on par with the other homes in your neighborhood,” says Pam O’Connor president of RELO/Leading Real Estate companies of the World. One RELO client in Atlanta transformed his large backyard into a soccer field. “When he sold the house, the owner didn’t recoup his investment because the new owners didn’t care for his choice of landscaping,” she says.


The Neighborhood Scoop: Shadowlawn

Shadowlawn is a waterfront neighborhood that locals and visitors absolutely love. Recreational activities or just checking out the scenery is a local favorite. This neighborhood has a very nautical feel, with some seaside and shipping feel, which some may really enjoy the sights and sounds of.


Shadowlawn is a coastal neighborhood that has a median real estate price of $527,281, which is more expensive than 84.3% of the neighborhoods in Virginia and 86.3% of the neighborhoods in the U.S.

The average rental price is currently $1,393, based on NeighborhoodScout’s exclusive analysis. Rents here are currently lower in price than 48.6% of Virginia neighborhoods.

The real estate here is primarily made up of medium sized (three or four bedroom) to small (studio to two bedroom) single-family homes and apartment complexes/high-rise apartments. Most of the residential real estate is occupied by a mixture of owners and renters. Many of the residences in the neighborhood are established but not old, having been built between 1970 and 1999. A number of residences were also built between 1940 and 1969.

The current real estate vacancy rate here is 18.4%. This is higher than the rate of vacancies in 82.6% of all U.S. neighborhoods. A relatively large percentage of housing here is seasonally occupied (13.2%). This can occur in vacation areas, and occasionally it is also found in neighborhoods that are primarily filled with college students, as some apartments could be vacant when school is not in session. If you live here year round, you may find that a number of buildings in your neighborhood are actually empty.




Million Dollar Home Staging on a Budget


Sometimes you don’t have the money to hire someone to stage, or maybe you’ve run out of time and all the stagers are booked.

No problem. We have 15 tips that will transform your space while keeping that money in your pocket and get your home sold for TOP DOLLAR!


Did you get that? It is IMPERATIVE that your buyers walk in and actually can see not only the size of the room, but are able to envision their things in it. It is near impossible to do this if you nic-nacs from the last 10 years are taking center stage. Still don’t know what we mean, then just look below.

Huge difference right? One of the major contributors to a cluttered look is having too much furniture. If it seems hard to rid away of your things, just ask yourself what you can absolutely live without while trying to sell your home. Make a house rule that for every new item that comes in, an old one has to leave. The room looks BRIGHTER AND BIGGER! And guess what? Decluttering, while it’s no fun, is 100% free!! Yay!



There’s a common belief that rooms will feel larger and be easier to use if all the furniture is pushed against the walls, but that isn’t the case. Instead, furnish your space by floating furniture away from walls. Reposition sofas and chairs into cozy conversational groups, and place pieces so that the traffic flow in a room is obvious. Not only will this make the space more user-friendly, but it will open up the room and make it seem larger.


Just because you bought that armchair for the living room doesn’t mean it won’t look great anchoring a sitting area in your bedroom. Give yourself permission to move furniture, artwork and accessories among rooms on a whim. And try perching a little-used dining-room table in front of a pretty window, top it with buffet lamps and other accessories, and press it into service as a beautiful writing desk or library table.



Sometimes the only guests that stayed in our guest room was drop off junk…and it stayed that way  and somehow you have a storage unit your house. Well when you go to resale, transform the room into something your buyer could envision themselves using. The simple addition of a comfortable armchair, a small table and a lamp in a stairwell nook will transform it into a cozy reading spot. Or drape fabric on the walls of your basement, lay inexpensive rubber padding or a carpet remnant on the floor and toss in a few cushy pillows. Voila – a new meditation room or yoga studio.



One of the things that make staged homes look so warm and welcoming is great lighting. As it turns out, many of our homes are improperly lighted. To remedy the problem, increase the wattage in your lamps and fixtures. Aim for a total of 100 watts for each 50 square feet. Don’t depend on just one or two fixtures per room, either. Make sure you have three types of lighting: ambient (general or overhead), task (pendant, under-cabinet or reading) and accent (table and wall).