Checklist for First-Time Home Buyers

If you’ve never experienced the home buying process, it can seem overwhelming. There are a number of steps you have to take before you can pack your boxes and start the next chapter of your life. If you understand the key steps you’ll have to take before you even start your home search, you’ll be prepared for any potential roadblocks you might face along the way.

At Patrons Oxford, we understand how stressful the process can be and we’re here to help. Whether you’re ready to buy your first home now or just thinking about it, we’ve put together a checklist to help you along the way.

#1. Set a budget 

The first step in the home-buying process is to determine your budget and to make a realistic savings plan for your down payment. You also need to factor in the closing costs, realtor fees, and additional expenses for home repairs, moving and unexpected maintenance costs. Before you even begin looking at homes, you’ll need to decide on your price range and ask yourself the following questions:

  • How much house can I afford?
  • Am I going to take out a loan?
  • How much do I have saved for a down payment?
  • Can I afford my desired neighborhood?

#2. Get pre-approved
Now that you’ve determined your budget, start looking for a mortgage lender with a good reputation and timely closings. How much the lender will give you to purchase your first home will be dependent on factors such as your monthly income, debt, credit score, and profession. During this time, you can also secure your financing options and to make sure you’ll be able to afford your monthly mortgage payments.

#3. Find a realtor

Find a professional real estate agent who is an expert in the market and area you are considering to buy in. Throughout the whole process of financing, inspections, showings, and negotiating, a real estate agent will help you navigate your search and ensure you’re on track. Your realtor will help you set priorities and make an informed decision when it comes time to make an offer on your dream home. 

#4. Begin your search 

Set a list of amenities you want your ideal home to have and prioritize them from must-haves to nice-to-haves. For example, do you want to be near a local hiking trail or nearby lake? This will help you narrow down your search and weed out homes that may not be right for you and your needs. Your realtor can help you set up times to visit and tour the homes in-person or virtually. 

#6. Make an offer

Once you find your perfect home — make an offer. Your realtor will help you put this together and can guide you on what price makes sense for you. If your offer is accepted you can move on to the next step and if not, you’ll resume your search until you find the right match.

#7. Schedule an inspection

This essential step will help you identify any major underlying issues with the home that may not be visible to the eye or disclosed by the seller. Should you find a problem and the sale was contingent on the inspection, you’ll be able to renegotiate or pull out of the sale entirely. Typically, the inspection should be completed within one week of the offer being accepted.

#8 Purchase a homeowners insurance policy

Now that you have your home — protect it. Before you close, you’ll have to provide proof of an insurance policy. Your existing agent can help you open a new policy or you shop around to find a policy that works best for you. Your coverage will protect you from damage to your property and your liability or legal responsibility for any injuries and property damage you or members of your family cause to other people. So when you’re entertaining during your housewarming party, you can have some peace of mind that your home insurance policy will cover you in the event of someone being injured or something being damaged. 

#9 Close and prepare for your move

Once all the steps above are completed, you can close on your home and prepare for your move. This includes finding a moving company, looking at furniture, and setting a move-in date

We hope this checklist helps you throughout the home buying process. Visit our website to find an agent near you who is ready to answer all your insurance questions. https://patrons.com/find-agent.htm 

 

Sevigney-Lyons Insurance Agent Spotlight

In our latest Agent Spotlight, we’re excited to introduce you to Sevigney-Lyons Insurance Agency! 

Len Sevigney founded the agency in 1984 in his hometown of Wells, Maine after working for many years as a successful independent insurance agent. Starting with just a few carriers, he opened a small office on Main Street and by 1985 was joined by Jack Lyons. This partnership allowed them to grow quickly, along with their reputation for being honest and knowledgeable. Since then, the agency has thrived, expanding business exponentially, and today you can rest assured knowing that they will still take the time to get to know you, the customer, and your insurance needs.

In 1999, Len’s sons, Lucas & Jonathan, joined him in running the agency upon graduating from St. Lawrence and Boston College, respectively. Since then, Sevigney-Lyons has become one of the most decorated agencies in Southern Maine, winning multiple CSR of the year awards, holding chairs on several company boards, and winning multiple company awards. In the past several years Sevigney-Lyons purchased Ham Insurance in South Berwick, ME; Lyons Agency for Insurance in Kennebunk, ME; and Coastal Insurance Agency in Portland, ME.

The longevity of many of their employees can be attributed to the family atmosphere across the company. The leadership at Sevigney-Lyons encourages education and growth, offering rewards for excellent customer service. They also strive to have the top-technology to make a not-so-easy job a little bit easier for their employees. It’s the superior customer service of the staff that also helps the agency maintain longevity with their customers. Offering home, auto, business, watercraft, ATV, snowmobile, motorcycle, and an elite condo program, their team is ready to find the right coverage for your unique needs. What sets them apart from other agencies is the time they take to get to know you — you’re not just a number when you insure with Sevigney-Lyons. 

Employees of Sevigney-Lyons are leaders not only in the workplace but also in the industry as a whole. Katie Johnson is on the Maine Young Agents Committee, a group designed to help younger employees thrive in an industry made up of mostly veterans. Laurie Billings is Chairwoman of the Maine Insurance Agents Association and is a two-time winner of Maine Young Agent of the Year and she also serves on the Advisory Council for Selective Insurance.

Outside of the office, Sevigney-Lyons prides itself on their commitment to giving back to the local community. They have teamed up with My Pal Spencer (#MPSIII), an organization fighting to cure Sanfilippo Syndrome. This relationship began after the son of one of their insurance underwriters was diagnosed — since then, they have been raising awareness and fundraising for rare diseases. Also, they started an annual charity golf event that benefits a number of local organizations throughout the community.

We’re proud to work with independent agents like Sevigney-Lyons 

who are leaders inside and outside the office. You can learn more about them and their insurance policy offerings on their website: https://www.sevigneylyons.com/

Guide to Reviewing Your Insurance Policy for the New Year

When your life changes, so should your insurance policy. As we step into a new year, it’s the perfect time to review the last 365 days and plan ahead for the coming months. For many of us, 2020 brought a number of challenges and new experiences that we never expected. From canceled family vacations to working remotely, homeschooling kids, and spending much more time at home, we all had to pivot our initial goals for the year and develop a new routine to support the health and safety of our communities amid the COVID-19 pandemic.  

No matter how you spent your time last year, there may be a few changes in your life or around your home that require an updated insurance policy. Did you finally tackle a big DIY project around the house or make a move into a home in a suburban neighborhood? These are both things that can significantly impact your insurance coverage needs. Over the next few weeks, follow these steps to ensure you and your loved ones are protected from the unexpected. 

Collect your insurance policies

The first step in reviewing and updating your insurance policies is to understand what your current coverage is. Have you made additions to your home, had a baby, or made a valuable purchase without updating your policy? These changes may not be reflected in your original plan and require an amendment or added coverage to make sure you’re financially protected in the event of a loss. 

What to look for when reviewing your policy

Once you have all your policies, thoroughly read through them. A few key considerations to keep an eye out for when reviewing are:

  • The amount of coverage you have in relation to your recent needs and net worth. For example, if you’ve made a lot of expensive purchases lately, you may benefit from additional coverage outside your normal home insurance policy. 
  • Affordability of your premium — did you experience significant life changes that resulted in a loss and changed your financial stability? An agent can help you find a more suitable coverage option for you. 

Once you’ve read through your policies, identify and list any and all major life changes you’ve experienced — buying a home, a new teen driver, purchasing a recreational vehicle like a snowmobile or a boat, etc. If any of these changes happened after you updated your policy last, it’s time to contact your local agent. 

Review your policy with a local agent

Call your local agent to review your policy and better understand your options for maximum. Your agent will help you understand what policy makes sense for your needs and can answer any questions you may have. Being experts in their field, they can also help you identify changes you may not have realized affect your coverage. 

Start the New Year on the right foot and review your insurance policies. Visit our website to find an agent near you who is ready to answer all your questions. https://patrons.com/find-agent.htm 

 

 

Guide to Smart Home Technology

Whether you’re in the comfort of your own home or away, smart home technology offers efficiency and convenience at your fingertips — literally. At the touch of a button or voice command, you can control your thermostat, home security, electricity, monitor video cameras, turn your water on and off, and even add to your weekly grocery list. This evolving technology is helping to simplify our lives one gadget at a time, but it doesn’t come without risks. 

A popular gift during the holidays and perhaps a recent purchase for your own family as we all spend more time working and learning from home, keep these considerations in mind before you make your purchase. 

What’s considered a smart home product?

Unlike home automation, smart home products make your home smarter through the use of a cloud or another type of software component so they can function independently or based on intelligence. In other words, any product that doesn’t require you to manually operate it each time it’s used.

Assess your needs

There are a variety of brands making this new home technology and many different gadgets to pick from. Depending on the type of home you live in and your unique needs, you may not need the same types of products as your neighbor. Here are a few examples of individuals who may want to consider purchasing a product:

  • Frequent travelers — Whether for business or pleasure, you can benefit from smart home gadgets that allow you to control your thermostat and appliances from a distance. 
  • You have kids — There are a number of smart gadgets that allow you to monitor their technology use and even keep an eye on young kids through video no matter where you are.
  • Owning a second home — If you own more than one property, you certainly can’t be in two places at once. Smart home products can help you manage both at the same time and help keep them secure in your absence.

Benefits of smart home technology

Aside from convenience and efficiency, there are a number of benefits you can gain from the use of smart home technology:

  • Helps you save money — A recent study also found that smart home tech can end up saving you an average of $98.30 per month, adding up to an average of $1,179.60 per year
  • Reduces your risk of insurance claims — Smart home devices can enable remote monitoring and alert systems for what would otherwise be costly insurance claims. For example, an alert will pop up should your thermostat dip below a certain temperature which could result in frozen pipes. Or, water sensors would detect leaks that could potentially lead to severe damage to your floors, walls, and ceiling.
  • Maximizes home security — From smart locks to motion lights, security cameras, smart doorbells and garage doors, these products can help keep intruders out and alert you to suspicious activity immediately. 
  • Ability to manage devices from one place — Instead of walking through your entire home multiple times each day to turn lights on and off, adjust thermostats, and manage appliances, you can now do it all from one device such as a mobile device. 
  • Improves energy efficiency — Smart home products are intelligently designed to anticipate your needs and adapt accordingly. This reduces energy waste and can help improve overall appliance efficiency, ultimately extending their lifespan. 

How to make your smart tech more secure

Though there are a number of benefits from the use of smart home tech, there are also some risks. Cyber scams and attacks aren’t limited to your cell phone and computer but can extend to any tech device you have in your home that’s connected to a software or network — like a smart home product. If you plan to implement any of them in your home, be sure to implement these safety tips:

 

  • Assign a name to your router. Every router comes with a name from its manufacturer which can easily be identified by hackers. Use a new name not associated with your location or personal information to make it more difficult to find. 

 

    • Set up a guest network. When visitors come over, have a network already set up that they can connect to aside from the one you use for your smart home tech. This makes sure they can’t access your devices through the network. 
    • Change usernames and passwords often. Your devices will require login credentials which you should update frequently. Pro tip: if you come across a device that won’t let you make a unique username and password, return it and find a new product.

 

  • Check the factory settings on any new device. Some products come with low privacy settings when you initially purchase them. Make sure you turn on parental controls, set passwords, and turn on security settings before you use them. 
  • Disable features you won’t use. Some settings come automatically programmed, such as remote-access and location settings. If you don’t need these, turn them off. 
  • Keep software up to date. Some software updates include fixes for security flaws so be vigilant when it comes to installing them. 
  • Keep an eye out for outages. Device outages can result in unsecured settings and make you susceptible to an attack. If you do experience one, double-check all your settings and update passwords.

 

We hope these tips help keep you and your family as you install new smart home tech into your household. To learn more about your insurance policy options or to review your current plan, contact a local agent on our website. https://patrons.com/find-agent.htm

 

Tips To Prepare For Winter Weather

With the holidays right around the corner, that means winter weather is on its way. Up here in New England, we’re used to cold temperatures and frequent snowstorms but are you preparing for the coming season as best you can? The next few months can wreak havoc on your home and your vehicle, but there are a number of tasks you can do now to prepare. 

Keep these tips in mind over the next few weeks to help keep your peace of mind once the first snowfall comes. 

Preparing your home

As New Englanders, we know that the weather could feel like spring one day and then we could have a blizzard the next day. Because it’s so unexpected, it’s best to prepare your home now in the event of an early-season snowstorm. If you haven’t done so yet, here is a checklist you should run through to make sure the inside and outside of your home are ready to weather any storm. 

Inside

  1. Check weather stripping around doors and windows for wear and leaks and replace if needed.
  2. Have a professional come to clean and inspect your chimney. 
  3. Test your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors and replace old batteries. 
  4. Perform annual maintenance on your furnace and make sure it’s clear of any fire hazards.
  5. Swap out screen doors with storm doors. 
  6. Remover air conditioners from windows or cover with insulated liners.
  7. Consider replacing your thermostat with a programmable one if you don’t have one already to help save on heating costs.

Outside

  1. Clear gutters and downspouts of debris.
  2. Trim tree branches that are low hanging over your home or driveway.
  3. Check your roof for leaks and broken or missing shingles.
  4. Clean and store any outdoor furniture.
  5. Check handrails on staircases to ensure they’re well secured. 
  6. Inspect the exterior of your home for any decay or insect damage and repair if you need to.
  7. Double-check that exterior lights are working properly to light up walkways at night.
  8. Shut off exterior faucets and store hoses for the winter.

Preparing your vehicle

Whether you’re on the road every day or your car remains in your driveway or garage for most of the winter, there are several things you should do this time of year to help maintain your vehicle. Winterizing your car can not only help keep you safe on the road but can help you save money in the long run from winter-related repairs and damage.

Here are a few things you should do now to prepare:

  1. Check your tire tread for wear, check the tire pressure,  and rotate them each time you get an oil change. You may also want to consider snow tires if you live in an area with heavier than normal snow.
  2. Keep up with regular maintenance to identify any potential problems that could worsen in the winter months.
  3. Make sure you have enough antifreeze.
  4. Have a professional check your battery as they can often drain quicker in the colder months. 
  5. Test your heater and have it fixed now if it isn’t working properly.
  6. Brush up on safe-driving skills like how to maneuver your vehicle on black ice and best practices if you’re caught in a snowstorm. 
  7. Keep an emergency kit, ice scraper, and snow shovel in your car. If you don’t have an emergency kit already in your vehicle, you can learn more about what to include here

We hope these tips help keep you safe all winter long. To learn more about your insurance policy options or to review your current plan, contact a local agent on our website. https://patrons.com/find-agent.htm

 

Guide To Personal Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity attacks result in millions of dollars in damages each year, affecting individuals and businesses alike. Experts predict that an attack happens every 39 seconds resulting in an average of 2,244 hacks daily. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, that number has risen to roughly 4,000 hacks per day and may continue to rise as we approach the holiday season. 

A cyber attack can be detrimental to your personal finances or your business. Luckily, there are many precautions you can take to help ensure your information is safe — and if you know how to handle one if it does happen, you may even be able to prevent a devastating loss. 

To help you be more cyber aware, here are a few key things you need to know about cybersecurity. 

Who is Susceptible to a Cyberattack

No one is safe from experiencing a cyberattack unless you have never used an electronic device or given your information to someone who is using one. Any time you connect to Wi-Fi, enter your password on a website, make an online purchase, or give your information to a company, you’re opening yourself up to the risk of an attack. 

To give you a better idea of your odds, researchers have found that 1 in 4 people are likely to experience some type of cyber attack in their lifetime. In comparison, your odds of experiencing a home burglary are 1 in 50 and your odds of experiencing a tax audit are 1 in 100. The likelihood that you will experience a cyberattack is far greater than any other type of personal invasion. 

How to Protect Your Information

The key to keeping your data safe is taking all the precautions to protect it. Here are a few tips to help you do that:

  1. Keep your software up to date on your computer and your mobile device. New updates remove critical vulnerabilities that hackers have found to steal your information. 
  2. Use anti-virus protection and firewall to help fight attacks. 
  3. Choose strong passwords and update them often. 
  4. Adopt a two-factor authentication when logging into programs with sensitive information.
  5. Only connect to secure Wi-Fi and don’t allow others to connect to your personal network. 
  6. Be aware of phishing scams and think twice before opening a suspicious email.
  7. Never give your personal information over the phone or email to an unknown person.
  8. Back up your data often and keep it in multiple places — for example, your iCloud and an external drive.
  9. Review your online accounts and credit reports often and immediately report any suspicious activity. 

Common Types of Security Breaches

Now that you know how to help prevent an attack, it’s important to know what to look out for. Hackers get smarter every day and are coming up with new ways to access and steal your information. Sometimes, even human error can lead to a hack but with education and awareness, you can help reduce your risk. 

  • Malware — This is when hackers use spyware, viruses, or ransomware to attack you through a network vulnerability. Typically, this happens when you click a link or suspicious email, allowing them to break into your network and obtain your information.
  • Phishing — Have you ever seen a house or an apartment for a great price that seems too good to be true? Well, it probably is and it’s probably a result of phishing. This is when you see an ad or communication that seems to be from a reputable source. They try to get you to share your credit card information and steal your identity or your bank account. This type of hack is becoming more and more common, especially since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Man-in-the-middle attack – Also known as an eavesdropping attack, this is when someone intercepts information in the middle of a transaction. This may happen when you’re on an unsecured network, and the hacker inserts themselves between the device and the network.
  • Denial-of-service attack — To do this, hackers exhaust a network through a series of attacks so the system can no longer fulfill legitimate requests. This often happens to businesses, and they can’t operate properly until it’s resolved and they risk losing all their customer data.

When to be on High Alert for a Cyberattack

Even though anyone can experience an attack at any time, there are a few key periods to be sure you’re taking the extra precautions to protect your information. 

  • When you’re using your mobile device or computer to make a purchase or money transfer. This should only be done when you are on a personal, secure network and you should only transfer money to someone you know. 
  • The holidays are a common time to see a rise in cyberattacks as more people are making purchases online and might be browsing sites they don’t typically visit. 
  • During an election period. In recent years, we’ve seen the number of cyberattacks rise during U.S. election periods, and usually from international hackers. It’s important to double-check your emails before opening them from an unknown source and never give your information out online to a stranger. 
  • If you’re sharing your medical information online with your provider, double-check who has access to it and where you’re sharing it. As more people opt for this type of service amid the pandemic, a number of fake medical sites have popped up and they’re stealing patient information. Check with your provider directly to ensure your information will be safe. 

We hope these tips help protect you and your information online. To learn more about how we can help protect you and your family, please visit our website to find an agent.

 

 

 

 

Guide To Umbrella Insurance

Imagine that you’re hosting a gathering at your home for the holidays and a guest slips on your stairs and sues you for their hospital fees. Or, your teenage daughter gets into a car accident and the other driver suffers injuries that cost far beyond your auto insurance liability limit. In both these instances, an umbrella insurance policy will help protect you from paying thousands of dollars out of pocket. Any time you’re found liable or accused in a lawsuit, this policy covers any damage or legal fees related to the incident. 

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Guide to Building an Emergency Car Kit

In 2019, the National Safety Council reported a 35% increase in motor vehicle deaths in Maine compared to 2018, which was the highest year over year increase in the United States. Accidents can happen without warning, no matter how much of a seasoned driver you are, but if you’re prepared for the unexpected you can significantly reduce the risk of injury and death in the event of a collision. Whether you’re driving a mile down the road or embarking on a long road trip, it’s important to keep an emergency kit readily available in your vehicle with all the essentials you may need should you break down, experience an accident, or simply get lost. 

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Chalmers Insurance Agent Spotlight

We’re excited to introduce you to our next #AgentSpotlight, Chalmers Insurance Group, a fourth-generation owned-and-operated agency who have been treating individuals and businesses like family since 1857.

Along with over 160 years of in-depth industry knowledge, the level of service they provide offers you peace of mind knowing that you’re getting the most appropriate coverage for your needs at a cost-effective price. The leaders at Chalmers pride themselves on having employees who “embody insurance, not as something impersonal and intangible, but with an approach that to customer service that is caring and honorable — they make people and communities stronger and safer. Enduring relationships are based upon helping our clients to understand what insurance is, does and can be and we are gratified to hear our clients say ‘this is insurance for people like me’.” 

The goal of the Chalmers team is to serve each customer, and that means being available to them at any time because claims don’t always happen during normal business hours. Their advanced technology allows them to do just that — customers can complete their insurance needs any time of day. When you insure with Chalmers, you can rest assured knowing they will listen to and fully understand your risk, compare costs to find you the best solution, secure your coverage to make sure you, your family, and your business are protected, and be a trusted advocate in the event of a loss. These values at the core of the agency can be attributed to the reason many of their customers are longtime customers — they have an unwavering commitment to the New Hampshire and Maine communities in which they serve. 

Headquartered in Western Maine with seven other offices throughout the state and New Hampshire, they continue to grow by adhering to their core values and investing in company culture, which is guided by these four simple values—SHIP:

  • We work hard to deliver excellent Service to our clients.
  • We are trusted insurance advisors and pride ourselves on being Honest.
  • Community Involvement is integrated into everyday life.
  • As Passionate professionals, we share our values with co-workers, clients and partners.

Outside of the office, you’ll continue to see Chalmers employees out and about. From presenting at industry events to hosting local business events, traveling to technology seminars, taking classes, assembling food drives, and coaching soccer games, they’re committed to being active members of their communities. They take the ownership of our company seriously, and work hard every day to earn the special place we have within our communities.

Thanks for being an amazing agency partner, Chalmers Insurance!

Keeping Your Family Safe From Summer Heat

When the days get longer and warmer, the dangers of heat-related illness during outdoor activity also rises. From heat exhaustion to stress injuries, your family is at an added risk of experiencing serious heat-related injury during the summer months. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, heatstroke is the most serious heat-related disorder which happens when the body can no longer control its temperature. After just fifteen minutes in high heat, body temperature can rise enough to cause heatstroke and in the most extreme cases, death. 

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