What to Know Before Buying Homeowners’ Insurance

Before you shop for homeowners’ insurance, it’s smart to be informed about the wide range of costs and the ins and outs of insuring your home. Learning as much as you can about the following points will help you select the best homeowners’ insurance to meet your needs.

Be aware that how much you know about each of the following areas will influence your choices regarding your homeowners’ insurance policy.

  1. Home type. Your homeowners’ insurance policy should reflect the type of home you have. Homeowners’ insurances vary, depending on whether you live in a mobile home, a condominium, or a house.

  2. Typical insurance coverage. A basic homeowners’ insurance policy will cover for damage to your home from weather events, except for earthquake and flood coverage, which must be attained on separate policies.
    • Also, damage from vandals and thieves will be covered. So, personal property inside your home is included in a basic policy.
    • Other “structures” that are built on your property, such as garages, tool sheds, or workshops are usually included in homeowners’ insurance.
    • Another important inclusion in a typical policy is personal liability. This type of insurance coverage protects you in the event that someone gets hurt on your property.

  3. Home construction. What is your home made of? Is it built sturdily to handle weather events?
    • Materials used in the construction of your home will partially determine the type of insurance you obtain as well as the cost.
    • The more superior the construction, the easier it will be for you to find a good policy.

  4. Quality home care. If you go the extra mile to protect your home and belongings, you might attain a reduced premium.
    • For example, if you live in a hurricane zone and install hurricane shutters on all your doors and windows, you might score a reduced rate on your basic insurance policy.

  5. Deductible levels. As with other types of insurance, you can save money on your homeowners’ insurance policy if you’re willing to have higher deductible amounts.
    • Be aware that your mortgage company might have specific requirements or set limits as to how high of a deductible you can have.

  6. Replacement cost coverage. Before you go shopping for insurance, it’s wise to know the value of the property you’re insuring plus an approximate value of your personal items inside the dwelling that you’ll be insuring. Knowing these values will help the agent decide on how much to insure your property for.
    • To figure replacement costs, insurance companies will write a policy that covers 125% to 200% of the price of your property.

  7. Cost of Insurance. Many factors figure in to the cost of your homeowner’s insurance policy. Some of those factors are the age of the dwelling, the size of your home, its location, and the construction materials.
    • Also, the level of your deductibles and your location relative to your fire protection services and a fire hydrant figure in to the final insurance costs.

  8. Insurance company’s reputation. As with any business you deal with, know your insurance company’s reputation. Verify they are licensed to sell insurance in your state.
    • Check the company’s ratings through Standard & Poor’s, TheStreet.com, and your local Better Business Bureau.

Obtaining homeowners’ insurance requires you to do your homework. Use this list to prepare yourself for doing some comparison shopping for your home’s insurance. Once you familiarize yourself with all the facts related to your dwelling, you’ll be prepared and ready to make your best deal on your homeowners’ insurance policy.


Engarde Financial Group is positioned to educate and serve its clients with other insurance coverages.

We understand that your personal items that you possess are of significance to you. Here at EFG we look at every situation differently. When it comes to your needs there is no such thing as one size fits all. Speak to a insurance professional today so that we can design a policy to cover all the things you love.

8 Tips for Getting Approved for a Mortgage

It’s not as easy as it once was to get a home loan. Government regulations due to the recent housing crisis are the primary culprit. The requirements are more stringent than they were 10 years ago. Debt-to-income ratio requirements are much tougher than in the past.

It’s more challenging to get a mortgage, but not impossible.

Make your mortgage application more likely to be accepted:

  1. Have a down payment. The less money you need to borrow, the better your odds of being approved. The larger your down payment, as a percentage of the sales price, the more comfortable the bank will feel. Banks would much rather loan 70% of the value of the home than 95%.
    • If your income or credit are less than impressive, a larger down payment can make a huge difference.

  2. Pay down your debt. Your debt utilization ratio should be below 30% to maximize your odds of receiving approval. That means if your credit card has a credit limit of $10,000, your balance should never be above $3,000 at any point during the month.
    • Raising your credit limit is another possibility, provided you won’t be tempted to borrow even more.

  3. Stay at your job. Frequent hopping between employers will make your lender nervous. Show that your income, and you, are stable by staying with your employers for at least two years. Avoid changing employers during the application process. After you’ve closed on your new home, change jobs as often as you’d like.

  4. Minimize the amount you pay toward debt each month. If you’re making payments on two cars, a student loan, alimony, a home-equity loan, and three credit cards, there might not be much left over for a mortgage payment.

  5. Have reasonable expectations. Applying for an $800,000 mortgage with a household income of $50,000 is likely to end in failure. Aim for a mortgage payment of 25-30% of your monthly income. Anything higher is likely to result in rejection.
    • Increasing your income to ensure that you can make the mortgage payment is also beneficial.

  6. Know and fix your credit score. Before beginning the search for a new home, get copies of your credit reports and your credit scores. In most cases, you will struggle to get a mortgage if your credit score is less than 680. There are many online resources dedicated to raising credit scores. But be wary of companies selling credit repair services.

  7. Negotiate for a lower price. This is similar in effect to raising your income or finding a lower-priced home. Anything that reduces the loan amount or increases your income is helpful.

  8. Give yourself plenty of time. The above advice can’t be implemented on short notice. A year or more of planning is ideal. There’s little that can be done to enhance your odds in the next month or two. Sit down with a loan officer and review your situation with him. Make a plan together.
    • Making a financial commitment that could last 20 years or more is serious business. Do the necessary pre-planning to make it happen.

Focus on being as attractive to your lender as possible. This means minimizing your debt, having a significant down payment, and setting your sights conservatively. Lenders are interested in reducing their risk. Do all that you can to minimize the risk to your lender, and your odds of receiving approval are greatly enhanced.


Engarde Financial Group is positioned to educate and serve its clients with other insurance coverages.

We understand that your personal items that you possess are of significance to you. Here at EFG we look at every situation differently. When it comes to your needs there is no such thing as one size fits all. Speak to a insurance professional today so that we can design a policy to cover all the things you love.

A Practical Guide to Becoming a Landlord

Making the decision to become a landlord can be a profitable one. Under ideal circumstances as a landlord, you’ll be able to receive a positive cash flow on your property while it’s also appreciating in value. There can also be significant tax advantages.

But there’s a hefty amount of time and energy involved in managing your own rental property. There’s also a significant financial investment involved in purchasing and maintaining a property.

Let the following information guide you in your decision to become a landlord:

  1. Remember that you’re operating a business. This means that you’ll need to keep profit in the front of your mind. It’s important to keep detailed records on your income and expenses. Keep those cancelled checks, copies of bills, and receipts.
    • An inexpensive ledger system is fine for tracking your financials. There are also various spreadsheet programs and dedicated accounting software that are excellent tools.
    • Consider using a tax accountant, at least at first, to get you set up correctly. Joining a local real estate club can also be of great assistance.

  2. You’ll have to pay taxes. Even though you need to pay taxes on the profits, there are also tax advantages available to property owners and landlords. Some of the common deductions include:
    • Interest payments on the mortgage
    • Advertising to find tenants
    • Insurance premiums
    • Property taxes
    • Repairs and maintenance
    • Tax preparation
    • Depreciation

  3. There are numerous laws concerning housing. There are local codes related to the structure itself. There are also local and state laws related to evictions, the handling of deposits, how much rents can be raised, and many other related issues.
    • Your local government is likely to have copies of all the applicable laws available for you. The attorney general should have the required information regarding the applicable state laws.
    • There are also many federal laws that pertain to tenant-landlord relationships. These primarily address discrimination as it relates to renting and advertising practices. Some of the laws are not applicable if the landlord lives at the property or if there are 4 units or less.
    • Housing specified for senior citizens is also exempt from some requirements.

  4. Consult a good attorney. It’s a good idea to have an attorney review your lease before the tenant signs to ensure you’re following the law. Attorneys are also useful during the eviction process. Your local real estate club likely endorses some attorneys that specialize in real estate matters.
    • If you’re in doubt about any legal issue, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

  5. A standard homeowner’s insurance policy will likely not apply. Your regular homeowner’s insurance policy is for owner occupied homes, so you’ll need a policy specific to rentals. You might also require a separate policy if the home is vacant for an extended period of time.

  6. Know your responsibilities. As a landlord, you must meet certain requirements. Be sure you’re aware of your state and local laws.
    • Your building must comply with the local building codes.
    • The property must be kept in livable condition.
    • The utilities must be in sanitary and safe working order.
    • You must provide functioning smoke detectors.

  7. Consider a property management service. For about 10% of the rent, a property management company will find tenants, collect the rent, make repairs (at your cost), and handle nearly every other type of issue. If you’d rather spend your time finding additional rental properties to purchase, a management service can be a good idea.

Becoming a landlord is not to be taken lightly. Though it can be lucrative, it only takes one bad tenant to create a very challenging situation. Go into the business of being a landlord with your eyes open. There are many great books available on this topic and you can also find local landlords for guidance and advice.


Engarde Financial Group is positioned to educate and serve its clients with other insurance coverages.

We understand that your personal items that you possess are of significance to you. Here at EFG we look at every situation differently. When it comes to your needs there is no such thing as one size fits all. Speak to a insurance professional today so that we can design a policy to cover all the things you love.

Lease or Buy? Financing Tips for Automobiles

There are two basic options when you need a new vehicle: Lease or buy. You can purchase a vehicle with cash or through financing, or strike up a lease agreement with an auto retailer. Leasing a vehicle provides you with short-term benefits without ownership, while buying is a much more serious commitment, but with greater long-term value.

Educate Yourself

To get the most out of either financing option, become familiar with the benefits and drawbacks associated with each option. Both options are viable when the right conditions are met, so leasing might be best for you at some point in time while buying is best during another point in your life.

Here are some things to consider before deciding to buy or lease a vehicle:

  1. Leasing is similar to renting your car. When you lease a vehicle, you make monthly payments on it, but you never really own it. This means that once the lease term is up, you either give the vehicle back or renew the lease. There’s never a point where you actually pay off or own the vehicle.
      • Despite not actually owning the vehicle, you’re still responsible for all aspects of maintenance during the lease term in most circumstances. This means new tires, oil changes, new fluids, and all general maintenance costs are your responsibility.
      • Because you don’t own the vehicle, you cannot make any modifications to it: no bumper stickers, aftermarket parts, window tinting, or other alterations that you might like to make on a car that you drive regularly.
      • Leasing is most ideal for individuals who want to drive a new vehicle every few years. When your lease agreement ends, you can initiate a new lease agreement with a new vehicle.

  2. Getting an auto loan means the vehicle is yours. As long as you make the auto loan payments on time, you get to keep the vehicle. Once the vehicle is paid off completely, you don’t have to worry about making payments any longer.
      • As the owner, you’re responsible for maintenance costs and repairs. However, you may enjoy the fact that you’re maintaining your own vehicle. You don’t have to give it back.
      • When you own your car, you can use it as collateral for secured lending options. When you lease a vehicle, you cannot use it as collateral and there are many restrictions about how you can use it that may limit your enjoyment of the vehicle.

  3. Interest rates affect whether one option is better than another. Affordability is key when it comes to choosing between leasing and owning a vehicle. The affordability of one option over the other can change based on the market and current interest rates and other incentives.
      • When interest rates on auto loans are low in general, lease payments may not be the most attractive option. Lower interest rates combined with incentives from auto dealers often make an auto loan the better opportunity.
      • When interest rates go up and obtaining an auto loan is not always feasible, leasing may be a better option because it provides short term access to a car with lower monthly payments, since you don’t pay based on interest rate.

The Bottom Line

Weigh your options closely before deciding to buy or lease a vehicle. Different options provide different incentives, advantages, and disadvantages over time. Compare the opportunities for leasing or buying to your current financial situation to determine which is best for you.


Engarde Financial Group is positioned to educate and serve its clients with other insurance coverages.

We understand that your personal items that you possess are of significance to you. Here at EFG we look at every situation differently. When it comes to your needs there is no such thing as one size fits all. Speak to a insurance professional today so that we can design a policy to cover all the things you love.

6 Ways to Minimize the Cost of Your Auto Loan

Let’s face it, cars are expensive. It’s not only the price of the car, but also the gas, insurance, maintenance, car washes, and more. For most of us, there are also considerable costs associated with the auto loan. With the economy as it is, every expense is worth examining.

Use these strategies to save money on your next auto loan:

  1. Improve your credit. Nothing has more impact on the terms of your loan than your credit score: the better your score, the lower the interest rate. If your credit history is sketchy, it’s going to cost you. So if you have credit problems, put off buying that new car until you’ve done some work on your credit.

  2. Avoid small loans. In many cases, interest rates tend to be higher on small loans. If the car costs less than $5,000, then it’s best to simply save up ahead of time and pay cash for the car. If you’re desperate for a vehicle, however, this may not be an option.

  3. Refinance. You can refinance an automobile at a lower interest rate if interest rates have fallen since you bought the car. This especially makes sense if you’ve also been able to improve your credit since you obtained your loan. You could easily save $100 per month by refinancing.
      • With the subsequent reduced payment schedule, you can apply the extra you’re saving toward other investments or you can pay off your car sooner.

  4. Shop around for financing. It might be easiest to get your financing at the dealership, but it’s rarely the best place. Finding a better financing offer means extra money that could be in your pocket instead of the dealer’s.
      • Check out what the dealer has to offer, but get some other financing quotes and see what makes the most sense.

  5. Consider leasing. While leasing is usually considered to be more expensive in the end than purchasing, it can make sense if you never own a car long enough to get it paid off.
      • Your monthly payment will likely be less and the taxes are less, since you usually only pay tax on your payments, not on the value of the car.

  6. Find a less expensive vehicle. Cars today are almost universally quite reliable. There’s almost no practical difference between a modern $10,000 car and a $100,000 car. All the extra cost has little to do with how reliably or safely the car will get you from point A to point B.
      • Consider purchasing a slightly used automobile to really save some money. If you can find a car that’s almost new with low mileage, you get all the advantages of a new car, including the warranty, without the new car cost.

There are several ways to save money on your next auto loan. If you have the luxury of time on your side, fix any credit challenges you may have and shop around for the best financing terms. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Do what you can to keep as much of your money as possible.


Engarde Financial Group is positioned to educate and serve its clients with other insurance coverages.

We understand that your personal items that you possess are of significance to you. Here at EFG we look at every situation differently. When it comes to your needs there is no such thing as one size fits all. Speak to a insurance professional today so that we can design a policy to cover all the things you love.

9 Ways to Save On Car Insurance

You are legally required to carry insurance for your vehicle, but this doesn’t mean you should overpay for your coverage. The monthly premium your insurance provider charges is a recurring expense that will impact your budget, so it’s important to look for an affordable option.

It is possible to purchase the kind of coverage you need, protect your vehicle, and save money if you take the time to shop around and select the right provider and policy.

Start by finding out more about how much insurance you’re required to carry. There are laws specific to each state regarding how much coverage you need.

These steps will help you find a more affordable policy for your vehicle:

  1. Consider raising your deductible. This means you’ll have to cover a higher out-of-pocket expense if you get in an accident, but your monthly premiums will be lower.

  2. Drive less. Let your insurance provider know if you drive less than the average individual, use public transit to go to work, or carpool. Some insurance providers will grant you a discount, since driving less means you’re less likely to get in an accident.

  3. Have some clauses removed from your policy. Go over the policy you’re interested in and ask your insurance agent to make a few changes if there is more coverage than you need.

  4. Update your coverage regularly. The value of your vehicle will drop over time and you might find that you’re paying for coverage that exceeds the value of your vehicle if you don’t upgrade your policy regularly.

  5. Bundle your policies. Most insurance provider will give you a discount if you insure more than one vehicle with them or buy a homeowner’s or a renter’s insurance policy when you insure your vehicle.

  6. Be a good driver. You can usually earn a discount if you have a good driving record, but you might have to contact your insurance provider and ask for a discount. Some insurance companies will give you an additional discount if you complete a driving class.

  7. Improve your credit score. Some insurance providers will calculate your premiums based on your credit score. Work on improving your credit and contact your insurance provider to ask for a discount once your score goes up.

  8. Choose a vehicle you can afford. If you are in the process of buying a new car, compare the average price of an auto insurance policy for different vehicles to find one that’s a good fit for your budget.

  9. Shop around. The premiums and discounts offered vary from one auto insurance provider to another. Take the time to request quotes and to compare your options before you purchase insurance.

Combine all these tips to find an affordable policy to insure your vehicle. Ensure the policy you purchase meets legal requirements and provides you with enough coverage to replace your vehicle if you get into an accident.

Don’t hesitate to talk to your insurance agent to find out more about the different discounts you might qualify for or to simply ask for a discount!


Engarde Financial Group is positioned to educate and serve its clients with other insurance coverages.

We understand that your personal items that you possess are of significance to you. Here at EFG we look at every situation differently. When it comes to your needs there is no such thing as one size fits all. Speak to a insurance professional today so that we can design a policy to cover all the things you love.

When to Explore Rates for Auto Insurance

How often do you think about your auto insurance rates? If you’re like many, you only consider your rates during renewals. If so, you may be surprised to learn that auto insurance companies periodically raise insurance rates across the board.

Therefore, you might have taken the best deal for insurance when you first bought it, but now, you could be paying more than necessary for your auto coverage.

That’s why it’s a good idea to check auto insurance rates at least yearly to ensure you can’t get equal or even better coverage for less than what you’re now paying. Plus, you may experience other situations that should trigger a re-checking of your rates for auto insurance.

Consider these situations that could affect your rates:

  1. Accidents. If someone on your policy recently had an accident, your auto insurance company probably increased your rates. Interestingly, if you take a look at what other insurance companies would charge you for auto insurance, you might find that you can get much lower rates, even after a car accident.
      • Therefore, if you or someone in your family recently had an auto accident, it’s smart to check insurance rates with other companies in order to keep your premiums low.

  2. Buying a new car. When you’re purchasing a new car, examine auto insurance rates at various companies. It’s wise to look at rates early in the car-shopping process to compare them for the 2 or 3 make and models of cars or trucks you’re considering for purchase. Otherwise, you might make the mistake of buying a car that’s quite expensive to insure.
      • So, before you select and buy a vehicle, check insurance rates with at least 3 auto insurance companies.

  3. Is your teenager almost ready to drive? If so, it’s time to explore insurance coverage rates. Some auto insurance companies offer very reasonable rates for teen drivers while others are downright exorbitant.
      • A few months before your teenager will be driving, investigate pricing on auto insurance from companies you believe are reputable and dependable.

  4. Driving your car more or less than before. In the event you change the amount of miles you’re driving your car, take the opportunity to check car insurance rates. Although your current company might be willing to cut your rates, go ahead and examine the auto insurance rates at 2 or 3 other companies so you can compare them.
      • You might get lucky and find an insurance company willing to give you a “cut-rate” deal for the miles you drive your car in a week, month, or year.

  5. Your car’s value decreases. As your car ages, it’s wise to adjust the coverage on the car, which will reduce the amount of your auto insurance premium. Although you might have full coverage on a new car, after a car is 3 or 4 years old, most auto insurers suggest reducing your coverage to save money on your auto insurance premiums.
      • As the value of the car reduces, so should the amount of car insurance you pay.

  6. Your living situation changes. Maybe the amount of money coming in to the home reduces. Or you get a divorce or get married. Perhaps you switch from full-time work to part-time work. Or maybe it’s retirement time.
      • During periods of transition, consider it an opportunity to evaluate how much money you’re paying for car insurance.

You may be able to save over $500 yearly by comparing auto insurance companies, so make it a point to explore rates of various auto insurance companies and compare them with the rates you’re paying currently. You just may keep a few more dollars in your own pocket.


Engarde Financial Group is positioned to educate and serve its clients with other insurance coverages.

We understand that your personal items that you possess are of significance to you. Here at EFG we look at every situation differently. When it comes to your needs there is no such thing as one size fits all. Speak to a insurance professional today so that we can design a policy to cover all the things you love.

How to Find the Best Automobile Insurance Policy

Car insurance is required in almost every state. While many of us don’t actually ever use our insurance, the costs to maintain a policy can be significant. There are several things you can do to ensure you’re getting the best policy at the lowest price.

Check out these tips to help you find the best automobile insurance for your particular situation:

  1. Shop around. Prices can vary considerably from company to company.
      • Not all companies evaluate risk factors the same way. You might be surprised how much you can save by shopping around and getting a few quotes.
      • There are many websites that will allow you to submit your information and get quotes from numerous companies.

  2. Get the appropriate amount of coverage. Many people have far more coverage than they need. Many have too little coverage, which is also less than ideal. Analyze your situation to help you determine what would work best for you.
      • That old clunker doesn’t need extensive coverage. You’re probably not going to worry about a scratch in the parking lot or a little hail damage on the roof, so the extra cost wouldn’t be worth the return.
      • Along the same lines, do you really need $500,000 in liability coverage if your net worth is only $25,000? Get some expert advice and to ensure you’re not getting more than you need.

  3. Consider the deductible amount. Evaluate the cost savings and decide if a higher deductible makes sense for you. If you never seem to use your insurance, and have some money in the bank, a higher deductible can save you money.
      • Moving up to a $500 deductible can save as much as 30% over a $250 deductible.

  4. Keep your credit record clean. Your credit score is frequently used by insurance companies to price your policy. Some companies severely penalize those with lower scores.
      • Pay your bills on time and avoid taking out loans you don’t need. That pesky credit score seems to affect everything these days.

  5. Get your home and auto insurance from the same company. Most companies offer discounts if you have multiple policies. Ask what they’re willing to do if you combine the two.
      • Remember to include RVs, boats, snowmobiles, and any other vehicles as well. You could save a bundle.

  6. Consider the insurance cost before you buy a car. Some cars cost far more to insure than others.
      • Before you drive that sports car or luxury car home, get some insurance quotes first. Some vehicles are much more likely to be stolen, and the insurance will be more expensive. Others can be much more costly to repair.

  7. If you don’t drive many miles each year, ask for a mileage discount. The less your car is on the road, the less likely it is to be in an accident. Low-mileage drivers can qualify for significant discounts.

Use the tips above to tailor your automobile insurance policy to your own needs. All policies are not created equal and a standard set of benefits might not fit you at all. Shop around and educate yourself about what you really need. The peace of mind combined with cost savings will let you sleep like a baby at night.


Engarde Financial Group is positioned to educate and serve its clients with other insurance coverages.

We understand that your personal items that you possess are of significance to you. Here at EFG we look at every situation differently. When it comes to your needs there is no such thing as one size fits all. Speak to a insurance professional today so that we can design a policy to cover all the things you love.