Top Winter Insurance Claims (and How to Give Them the Cold Shoulder)

Don’t let winter’s perils leave you out in the cold. Learn how to avoid costly home insurance claims.

By Barry Bridges

Winter brings many pleasures unique to the season, including holiday get-togethers, warm flannel bedsheets, and football viewing parties. Unfortunately, winter also has its share of perils. Ask anyone who’s ever suffered through the flu or gotten their tongue stuck to a frozen metal pole.

Many homeowners face a particular set of perils in wintertime — potential mishaps that could lead to property damage, insurance claims, and even lawsuits. Take a look at some of the most notorious winter home-insurance claims, then learn how to reduce your risk.

The most common (and costly) claims

As you might expect, weather plays a key role in many winter insurance claims. Frozen precipitation and frigid temperatures can attack a home inside and out.

A 2014 analysis of claims data identified the five most prevalent weather-related claims:

  1. Water leaks
  2. Wind damage
  3. Hail damage
  4. Frozen pipes
  5. Roof damage from ice and snow

The analysis also ranked the three most expensive winter weather claims based on average cost:

  1. Frozen pipes: $18,000
  2. Hail damage: $10,000
  3. Tree collapse: $6,000

Across America, the total cost of this frozen fracas typically adds up to billions of dollars in insured losses — $3.5 billion in 2015 and $2.6 billion in 2014.

Prevent common perils

When it comes to things like wind damage and hail damage, homeowners often find themselves at the mercy of nature. But with due diligence and a little forethought, homeowners can improve their chances of avoiding some seasonal misfortunes.

  • Keep your roof in good repair. Clean your gutters regularly and replace worn shingles for increased protection against roof damage, which can lead to another common source of home insurance claims: water leaks. Without proper drainage, snow and melted ice have a tendency to seep down into ceilings and walls.
  • Take a load off. In cases of heavy accumulation on your roof, waiting for ice or snow to melt may not seem like the safest way to go. If you need to clear your roof quickly, use a long-handled snow rake or hire a professional snow removal service.
  • Protect your pipes. Frozen pipes can lead to expensive repair bills. To help keep the water flowing, set your thermostat at 68 degrees or above, and let faucets trickle overnight when temperatures dip below freezing. Water pipes on the outside of your home, including the garage, should be insulated.
  • Tend to your trees. High winds, ice, and sleet can send branches — or worse, entire trees — crashing down. Always trim limbs that overhang or touch your house. Regular checkups by an arborist can help identify trees that may need serious pruning or even removal.

Avoid slip-and-fall liability claims

Although they don’t make the list of most common winter home insurance hazards, slip-and-fall lawsuits can — and do — happen. In the winter, such incidents typically involve a guest losing their footing on a walkway slick with ice or snow.

Homeowners have two factors working in their favor. First, liability coverage included in a standard homeowners policy may help protect you if someone suffers an injury on your property and files suit.

Also, some legal experts say slip-and-fall lawsuits involving snow and ice are hard to win, especially in cold-weather states where juries may look at snow and ice as known hazards.

On the other hand, why not be proactive? Keep the walkways to your home, along with the surrounding sidewalk, shoveled and salted. After all, the injury you prevent may be your own.

Stay prepared for what winter may bring

According to Punxsutawney Phil, we’re in for six more weeks of winter. For homeowners, additional cold and snowy weather may require additional vigilance to keep winter home insurance claims at bay.

Take the time to look for potential hazards around your home and try to address them, because responsibility never goes out of season.

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Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

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On the House: A Crowdfunded Alternative to House-Flip Financing

(TNS)—Back when house-flipping was the major fad of the mid-2000s, Matt and Elizabeth Faircloth were not like most. As tens of thousands of people across the nation were securing mortgages they never should have received to fund flips, the New Jersey couple were tapping into money for projects in any way they could find: personal savings, money from friends and their inner circle.

They were the outliers: Only 30 percent of flippers were paying with cash, the majority instead borrowing from banks and other lenders to get a lot of money fast.

For years, the system worked. Until it didn’t.

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At the peak of the flipping boom in second-quarter 2005, when 95,000 people across the country flipped single-family homes or condos, many flippers were holding two, three or four mortgages, experts say—partially driven by investors who lied on their applications, saying the homes would be their primary residences so they could get cheaper interest rates. Lenders who severely loosened their borrowing standards were also part of the problem.

When the housing bubble burst and values plummeted, flippers with multiple mortgages suddenly couldn’t sell their properties and couldn’t pay their loans. The rest is history.

Now, flipping—buying second-rate homes, rehabbing them quickly, and selling them for a profit—is back. In 2016’s second quarter, more than 51,000 U.S. homes were flipped, the most since 2010.

Can we ensure what happened in the mid-2000s doesn’t happen again? Industry experts say there’s something that can help: the internet and the crowd.

Thanks to websites such as Kickstarter and GoFundMe, we live in an era in which the public can fund almost anything. (Years ago, a man made headlines for receiving more than $55,000 on a project to make potato salad.)

It was only a matter of time before flippers got money the same way. But crowdfunding a flip is a bit more complicated.

The concept in theory is still the same: Potential flippers who can’t get mortgages from banks and lending institutions solicit internet and crowdfunding sources for loans.

At some of these, loans are created using funds from individual investors—some of whom pay as little as $5,000 to get in on the deal. The smaller loans are packaged together. In return, the investors receive 10 percent to 15 percent interest back on the loan they provided. Terms may differ by lender.

Founded in 2012, Fund That Flip, based in New York, is one such company, created to fill what founder Matt Rodak saw as a void in the industry.

“I was doing some house-flipping on the side…and found the (funding) process to be very frustrating, filling out lots of applications and dealing with a sometimes opaque process,” Rodak says.

He touts a more simplistic process: Borrowers have less paperwork and fewer hidden fees. And in most cases, he promised, interest rates are not as high as with loans from hard-money lenders, in which the loans are secured by the properties.

In return, investors make safer bets, Rodak says. Instead of writing large checks for one borrower, Fund That Flip investors can “take that same $200,000 and spread it over 20 or 40 deals and diversify their risk.”

It’s something the Faircloths have explored, and with the right opportunity they would try to team with Fund That Flip, Matt Faircloth says.

“People are getting sick and tired of Wall Street as the only place they can go to invest hard-earned money and to build long-term wealth,” Faircloth says. “Crowdfunding allows you to invest in something that’s down the street from your house.

“I’d like to be a part of that space as it becomes more popular— we need another choice for building wealth.”

©2017 The Philadelphia Inquirer
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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You Could Own the Fannings’ Childhood Home for $2.85M

Elle and Dakota’s former kitchen and lagoon pool are outfitted for Hollywood-style parties.


Photo: ShutterStock

The gated estate where actress sisters Elle and Dakota Fanning grew up in Studio City, CA just hit the market for $2.85 million.

Its nearly 3,600 square feet include 5 bedrooms and 4 baths, plus a double-story great room with a limestone fireplace and a view onto a terraced backyard with a lagoon pool and spa.

The 1953 French Traditional home boasts mature oak trees and expansive views of the Hollywood Hills, according to the listing by Leland Walters of Leland Properties.

Photos courtesy of Leland Properties

The chef’s kitchen is outfitted for Hollywood-style parties, with white marble countertops, a large center island and stainless appliances. A breakfast nook oversees the lushly landscaped property.

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It’s a Sell for Warren Buffett in Laguna Beach

Most of the home’s rooms offer views of the sand, surf and rocks of gorgeous Emerald Bay.

On the heels of unloading a truckload of Walmart stock, bazillionaire Warren Buffett is cutting loose a sweet little piece of Laguna Beach real estate. It’s the first time in nearly 50 years that the 3,500-square-foot home has been on the market.

Buffett is asking $11 million for the 6-bedroom, 7-bath home, which boasts a separated family room with a large sundeck facing the ocean — perfect for parties. There’s also a large, mostly enclosed patio for more private moments.

Most of the home’s rooms offer views of the sand, surf and rocks of gorgeous Emerald Bay, and guests are particularly easy to accommodate because two bedrooms feature their own private entrances.

The listing agent is Bill Dolby of Villa Real Estate.

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Easy and Inexpensive Ways to Fix Up Your Home Like a Flipper

Flipping homes is a thrill, but don’t forget your own home’s potential. Enjoy that new-home feeling again with these simple tips.

If you’re anything like me, you may find that it’s all too easy to get caught up in the rush of flipping houses. I’ll admit — buying an old house, fixing it up, and flipping it for a profit is pretty exciting. But if you get too distracted by flipping houses, it’s easy to let your own home fall by the wayside.

While profitable remodeling projects can be more tempting to work on, you can still benefit from tackling projects in your own home. Remodeling your home will not only up its value, but also improve the way you feel about it. After all, who wouldn’t love to cook in a newly remodeled kitchen?

Here are five easy, inexpensive projects that will really make a difference in how you feel about your home.

Add a new coat of paint

Whether you decide to paint your kitchen, bathroom, or bedroom (or all three!), a coat of paint can instantly transform the look and feel of a room. The best part about painting your own home is that you don’t have to stick to neutrals, because you aren’t trying to attract any buyers.

If you’ve been dying to paint your kitchen red or your bathroom blue, then do it! This is your chance to paint your home the colors that make you happy.

Refresh your kitchen

The kitchen is one of the most used rooms in a home, so it should be one of the first rooms you remodel. And unless you moved into a brand-new home where you were able to design your kitchen from scratch, chances are there are a few things you’ve been eager to change.

If you’re lucky enough to have nice wood cabinets, don’t worry about replacing them. A splash of paint and some new hardware can work wonders and make your kitchen look brand new, without having to spend hundreds on new cabinets.

The same goes for laminate or wood countertops. There are plenty of DIY kits you can buy to transform your countertops for a fraction of the cost.

A new backsplash is also an inexpensive way to add some life to your kitchen — plus it’s a cinch to install.


Photo from Zillow listing.

Install new doorknobs, faucets, and light fixtures

While they are probably the easiest feature to overlook, new doorknobs and fixtures can make a huge difference in a room. Depending on the type of doorknobs you purchase, and considering that most homes have quite a few knobs, the price can add up pretty quickly.

If you don’t have the time or money to replace all your doorknobs at once, work on replacing just a couple every month, starting with the most obvious ones.

Faucets can get pretty expensive as well, especially if you want to replace them in both your kitchen and bathroom(s). If you want to save some money, I recommend searching online or heading to the clearance section of your local home improvement store.

If you’re lucky, you can find great deals on some beautiful faucets. Replacing all your faucets at once might not be feasible, so don’t be afraid to take your time with this project. Before you know it, you’ll be able to enjoy the luxury of attractive faucets in all your rooms.

As for light fixtures, you may already have fixtures that you like, but they just need a color update. Instead of buying new fixtures, grab a can of spray paint and go to town. It’s amazing what a difference a $3 can of spray paint can make!

Revive your bathroom

A coat of paint, wainscoting, and a fresh shower curtain and linens are all super easy ways to instantly transform your old and tired bathroom.

If you’re feeling a bit more ambitious, you could even replace the flooring or change up the vanity. Getting ready in the mornings will be that much more enjoyable if you can do so in a beautiful bathroom.


Photo from Zillow listing.

Boost your curb appeal

While it’s always satisfying to remodel the interior of your home, you don’t want to forget about the exterior. Fortunately, there are a couple of simple changes you can make to really boost your home’s curb appeal.

If you can’t afford to replace the front door, try painting it instead. A new porch light fixture, house numbers, and a mailbox can also make a huge difference for your home’s exterior.

So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to stop coming up with excuses. Go fix up those kitchen cabinets that you’ve hated since you moved in!

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