How to Stay Safe When Returning After a Wildfire

Wildfires are unpredictable, evoke fear and chaos, and can cause severe damage to people, animals, property and land. Most people think of wildfires only occurring in California, but they are common in a handful of states in the western and southern U.S.

After a wildfire has been contained and the authorities have announced that residents are safe to head home, people can feel anxious about the unknown damage that was caused and their continued safety.

When returning home, you’ll want to consider these wildfire safety tips to ensure the continued safety and security of your family and apartment.

1. Wait until local authorities have officially cleared the area

police at wildfirepolice at wildfire

If the wildfire has been contained or entirely put out, it can be tempting to immediately rush home and start assessing the damage. However, wildfire damage lingers and can cause additional problems like flooding or secondary fires.

So, to ensure wildfire safety, do not return home until safety officials have given the “all clear.”

2. Use caution when entering your home after a fire

Obvious signs of wildfires, like flames, may be gone when you return home, but that doesn’t mean the danger is gone, too. When you enter your home, use extreme caution. Watch for charred or burned doorways and entryways and make sure that the building’s infrastructure is still secure.

3. Wear appropriate clothing

When you return after a wildfire, you’ll want to dress appropriately to avoid burns and bodily damage. Wear long pants, boots with thick rubber soles, gloves and dust masks.

4. Look for loose power lines or broken gas lines

downed power linesdowned power lines

Wildfires can cause damage to gas and power lines, and if you see a loose power line, gas line or meter, and circuit breaker, do not try and fix it on your own and do not go near it.

If they’re broken or damaged, call the utility company. They’re the best resource to safely fix damaged utilities.

5. Smell for gas

After you’ve looked for loose gas lines, you’ll also want to smell for gas when you return home. If you smell gas, turn off the supply tank and valve and immediately contact your local utility provider. Do not enter your place if you smell gas.

6. Check for pockets of heat inside and outside

Assess the grounds around your apartment building and inside your apartment for pockets of heat. The ground may still be hot, even after the flames have dissipated. These hot pockets can burn the paws of animals, harm people and even spark new fires.

As you walk around your property and assess the damage, also look for loose embers or active sparks. Check outside the building and inside in closets, roofs, and attics.

7. Eat and drink safely when returning home

Wildfires can knock out power for several days, so when you return home, get rid of any perishable food from the freezer and fridge so you don’t get sick. You’ll also want to watch for notices of when it’s safe to drink the water because water can be contaminated during a wildfire.

8. Document property damage and conduct a thorough inventory for insurance

looking at property damagelooking at property damage

Once you’ve safely checked the perimeter and apartment building, you’ll want to take photos of everything that was damaged during the fire. Keep a record and list of all items that were destroyed or damaged.

Don’t throw anything away until you’ve talked to your insurance company. Different companies will have different policies and you’ll want to make sure you follow their guidelines to ensure maximum return. It’s smart to have images, videos and lists before a fire, too, so you can prove to insurance companies what was damaged before and after a fire.

9. Clean your apartment

Lastly, you’ll want to start washing all items and cleaning the apartment after you’ve worked with your insurance company. After a wildfire, there will be mounds of debris and ash.

Wet the debris to cool it and get rid of any remaining sparks, and follow the designated procedure as outlined by your community to get rid of the ash. Rinse ash and debris off toys and household items, vacuum the floors with an approved filter and wipe down your floors, baseboards and counters.

Be prepared

wildfire in the distancewildfire in the distance

In 2019 alone, there have been more than 16,000 wildfires, and each year, more than 100,000 wildfires burn through U.S. lands. To stay safe and be prepared for future disasters, here are five wildfire safety tips.

  • Listen for warnings and leave when told: Because wildfires spread rapidly, it’s important to stay on constant alert if a wildfire has started in your neighborhood. When fire authorities or local officials tell residents to evacuate, it’s crucial to heed their warnings, leave immediately and head to a safe zone.
  • Stay tuned for emergency alerts and updates: Depending on the wildfire, some can be contained quickly while others are out of control for days at a time. If your area is under threat, tune in to the NOAA radio and local news for live updates.
  • Create an emergency action plan: It’s not the time to make an emergency plan when disaster strikes. Instead, sit down with your family ahead of time and discuss a communication action plan for future wildfires or other natural disasters. Because phone lines will likely be busy, consider using text or social media to communicate with your family. Discuss where you’ll meet, how you’ll get there and how you’ll notify others that you’re safe.
  • Conduct an apartment safety check: While wildfires are unpredictable, renters can check their apartment and work with their property manager to ensure the apartment complex and buildings are safe and up-to-date. Make sure you’re routinely checking fire alarms and extinguishers as a safeguard.
  • Have an emergency kit: If a wildfire occurs in your community, you’ll want to have an emergency kit on hand. These kits should include water, food, dust masks and first-aid essentials. Apartment dwellers should also consider purchasing a fire escape ladder in case of an evacuation.

When returning home after a wildfire, follow these safety procedures to keep yourself and your loved ones safe and mitigate damages as easily as possible.

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Source: apartmentguide.com

The Best Renters Insurance in Houston, Texas

Renters insurance in Houston is more expensive than renters insurance in other parts of Texas and the nation, so finding the cheapest provider can be a challenge. It’s often so high that many renters can’t help but ask themselves if they actually need it. Unfortunately, you do. You don’t just need it for property coverage, but you also need it for liability — especially if you often have a lot of people over.

America’s top-rated renters insurance

  • Policies starting at just $5/month
  • Sign up in seconds, claims paid in minutes
  • Zero hassle, zero paperwork
In this article

For all of the recommendations below, we used our SimpleScore methodology to find the best renters insurance companies in Houston. We analyzed coverage options, discounts, customer satisfaction, support and accessibility for renters insurance companies to assign a score that reflects our recommendations and review of renters insurance in Houston.

Here’s what we recommend for renters insurance in Houston, Texas.  

The best renters insurance companies in Houston, Texas

Most affordable – Progressive

Choose Progressive if you want cheap renters insurance in Houston.

J.D. Power Rating

3/5

AM Best Rating

A+

Standard & Poor’s

AA

SimpleScore

4.2 / 5.0

SimpleScore Progressive 4.2

Discounts 5

Coverage 3

Customer Satisfaction 3

Accessibility 5

Progressive has outstandingly low rates compared to other providers in the area, which you can make even lower if you can take advantage of Progressive’s discounts. Progressive currently offers the following discounts to its members:

  • Multi-policy
  • Quote in advance
  • Receive documents by email
  • Pay in full
  • Secured/gated community
  • Single deductible benefit

With so many options, it’s very easy to get an already low premium down even further.

Also worth noting is that Progressive has an A+ financial rating with AM Best. This is especially important living in Houston because the likelihood of many people filing claims after a natural disaster each year is high.

Best for bundling – Allstate

If you need auto insurance, Allstate could help you save big by bundling.

J.D. Power Rating

2/5

AM Best Rating

A+

Standard & Poor’s

AA-

SimpleScore

4.2 / 5.0

SimpleScore Allstate 4.2

Discounts 5

Coverage Options 5

Customer Satisfaction 2

Customer Satisfaction 5

If you also need car insurance, the best company to do both is Allstate. With Allstate, you’ll save 10% on your auto insurance and up to 25% off your renters insurance if you do both through them. That’s a lot of savings. When you consider that Allstate also offers numerous other discounts you can take advantage of for auto and renters, then it becomes clear that Allstate could likely save you the most money overall.

Most tech-savvy – Nationwide

If you like your insurance provider to be a 21st-century carrier, then Nationwide is for you.

J.D. Power Rating

2/5

AM Best Rating

A+

Standard & Poor’s

AA+

SimpleScore

3.8 / 5.0

SimpleScore Nationwide 3.8

Discounts 4

Coverage Options 5

Customer Satisfaction 2

Accessibility 4

The Nationwide mobile app, which is available for both iOS and Android devices, is one of the best insurance apps on the market today. With the app, you can file a claim, check on the status of a claim, make a payment, review your policy, update your policy, as well as make any changes to your coverages. Most insurance apps only cater to auto claims, but with Nationwide you can do renters insurance, too.

Best regional provider – Harris County Insurance Center, LLC

Get the benefits of working with a local carrier while feeling like you’re working with a national provider.

J.D. Power Rating

N/A

AM Best Rating

N/A

Standard & Poor’s

N/A

SimpleScore

2.8 / 5.0

SimpleScore Harris County Insurance Center, LLC 2.8

Disconts 2

Coverage Options 3

Customer Satisfaction N/A

Accessibility 3

Harris County Insurance Center has agents that speak both English and Spanish, and you can file a claim 24 hours a day. Unlike other regional providers, Harris County Insurance Center makes it possible to get a quote online without having to go to a brick and mortar shop or speak with someone over the phone. In fact, Harris County is getting so many things right we wouldn’t be surprised if they start servicing a larger area in the near future.

America’s top-rated renters insurance

  • Policies starting at just $5/month
  • Sign up in seconds, claims paid in minutes
  • Zero hassle, zero paperwork

Choosing your provider

When choosing which carrier you want to work with, you’ll have a choice between a national carrier and a regional carrier. There are pros and cons to both. Let’s talk about them.

Local Carrier

Pros

  • Support your local economy
  • Work with an agent that knows exactly what you need
  • Develop an ongoing working relationship with the same agents

Cons:

  • May not have as many coverage options
  • May not be as tech-savvy
  • May be more expensive than national providers

National Carrier

Pros:

  • More coverage options
  • Cheaper premiums that smaller providers 
  • More tech-savvy (smartphone apps, online presence)

[ Read: Defending Against Porch Pirates: What to Do about Package Thefts ]

Cons:

  • Agents likely will not know Houston, Texas, very well
  • Will not be able to develop an ongoing working relationship with an agent
  • You will likely have to do everything online or over the phone

Additional renters insurance coverage in Houston

Houston, Texas, has one of the highest rates of crime in the entire country. According to the Houston Police Department, the chances of becoming a victim of violent crime is about 1 in 18. It’s a trend that has only gotten worse (2020 was one of the worst years the city had seen in decades). Obviously, crime is a reason that renters insurance is so much in Houston

Another reason renters insurance is so high is because of natural weather disasters. Houston is subject to both flooding and hurricanes. As a resident in this area you should highly consider purchasing additional coverage with your insurance company.

Flood insurance

A regular renters insurance policy does not protect your belongings if they are damaged by floodwaters. For this type of coverage, you need flood insurance.

[ Read: Does Renters Insurance Cover Storage Units? ]

You may be able to purchase flood insurance through the insurance provider you purchase renters insurance, but most people usually get it through the U.S. government through Floodsmart. Living in Houston, you are likely in a flood zone, but you can see if your particular area is subject to flooding by inputting your address into FEMA’s flood map. Given Houston’s history with flooding, you should even consider purchasing flood insurance if you live in a high rise apartment.

Hurricane insurance

Hurricane insurance is actually called windstorm insurance. The likelihood of you needing to purchase it as a renter is small. This is because damages caused by wind, hail, fire and lightning are more than likely covered by your insurance provider. Just make sure that, when you do purchase a policy, you read the fine print about any exclusions. The only likely exclusion you’ll see is damage caused by floodwaters.

How much does renters insurance cost in Houston?

According to the latest study by Insurance Information Institute, the average cost of renters insurance in Texas is currently $225 a year. The average is $179. However, there are a lot of factors that influence the cost of renters insurance. These include:

  • Deductible
  • Type of policy you have
    • Actual cash value vs. replacement cost
  • Amount of property coverage
  • Amount of liability coverage
  • Where you live
  • Discounts (for example, many companies offer discounts for bundling policies)

Other factors that influence your final rate are whether you have any pets, and how much you estimate your personal property to be worth.

[ More: How Much is Renters Insurance? ]

Houston renters insurance FAQs

Yes, landlords can require renters insurance in Texas. Though you are not legally required to have it under state law, your landlord has the legal power to dictate the terms and conditions of the lease.

There are several factors that impact your renters insurance premium. The primary factors affecting the price of rental insurance in Houston include the size of the apartment or dwelling, how much liability you want to have, how much property coverage you want, as well as where your rental is located within the city.

Compared to the rest of the country, yes. The latest study from the Insurance Information Institute showed Texas to be the fourth most expensive state for renters insurance. This is because places like Houston are frequently exposed to natural disasters year after year, as well as high crime.

Don’t feel completely ready? For an extensive guide to purchasing renters insurance, check out our Ultimate Guide to Renters Insurance.

We welcome your feedback on this article and would love to hear about your experience with the insurers we recommend. Contact us at inquiries@thesimpledollar.com with comments or questions.

Source: thesimpledollar.com

Should I Buy a Backup Standby Power Generator for My Home?

In October 2019, Californians experienced a series of rolling blackouts aimed at preventing wildfires. Afterward, Aaron Jagdfeld, the CEO of home generator company Generac, told CNBC its sales there had more than tripled. He also said generators were going quickly in the Northeast as homeowners sought emergency power in the wake of repeated hurricanes and ice storms.

Demand for generators tends to surge after major storms as people realize how easily they could be stuck without power for a week or more. In 2014, I learned firsthand what it was like. Over 14 days, we had eight power outages varying from a few hours to a full day. After 10 days of bitter cold and limited connection to the outside world, I found myself wondering whether we should buy a backup power generator.

But I didn’t take the plunge right away. Instead, I took the time to do some research on generators first — their downsides as well as their benefits.

If you’re thinking about buying a generator, it makes sense to do the same thing. Before you shell out the money, consider the purchase from every angle — the costs, downsides, hassle, and what you really want the generator to do. That way, if you decide to take the plunge, you’ll know how to pick the best type of generator for you and your family.

Should You Buy a Backup Power Generator?

Only certain people need a generator to make it through a disaster. How well you can manage without one depends on where you live and how much you rely on electricity at home.

For instance, Sandra Bockhorst of American Preppers Network writes that she managed just fine during a week without power in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Hortense by using stored water, kerosene lamps, and a propane grill. However, after moving to Pennsylvania, she decided to buy a generator after a series of storms took out the power to her farm and nearly cost her a freezer full of food.

To figure out whether a generator is a worthwhile investment for you, you must be able to answer several questions:

  1. How Common Are Power Outages? Only buy a generator if you’re really going to need it. If the power grid in your area goes down every time there’s a big storm, a generator could make a significant difference in your comfort — but if you’ve had one blackout in the last five years, you can probably get by without one.
  2. How Long Do They Last? Even frequent power outages are no big deal if they only last a couple of hours. A generator is much more useful for handling prolonged outages that last for days. And if blackouts in your area can last for weeks, it could be worth investing in a more expensive generator that lasts longer.
  3. How Extreme Is the Weather in Your Area? Think about the weather conditions in your area. In a mild climate, going a week without heating or cooling could be no big deal. But if you live in the Deep South, where summertime temperatures can reach over 100 degrees F with punishing humidity, a whole week with no air conditioning could be incredibly unpleasant or even unsafe. And if you live in a very cold area, you have to worry about both protecting yourself from frostbite — which you can probably manage with enough layers of clothing — and keeping the pipes in your home from freezing and bursting in the cold.
  4. Do You Have the Space? A running generator needs a spot in your yard that’s a safe distance from your home. Stationary generators have to stay in this space all the time, and portable ones also need a separate space for storage. Both types require a supply of fuel, which you must also store.
  5. Do You Have the Time? It takes a bit of work to keep a generator in good running order. And if it’s a portable generator, it takes effort to set it up and get it started during a storm. That’s a hassle that could outweigh the benefits of getting the power back on a little sooner.
  6. What’s Your Budget? Generators cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars — and that’s not even counting fuel costs. Not everyone has that much money to spare, and everyone has other things they could do with it. Consider what else you might use the money for, then think about whether a generator is really what you want most.
  7. What Are the Alternatives? The more dependent you are on electricity, the more a generator is likely to help you. Make a list of all the things you use power for at home — for example, heating, cooling, and refrigeration. For each one, ask yourself whether there’s some alternative you could rely on if the power were down for a week. If you have no other way of keeping your home warm or cool or rely on your well-stocked freezer for your food supply, then keeping the power on at your home is crucial. But if your only real concern is keeping your cellphone working, there are other options, such as solar and hand-crank chargers.

You can answer some of these questions based on previous experience. But others require a bit more information. Before you can make an informed decision, you need to know more about how generators work, their costs, the amount of space and maintenance they require, and the possible alternatives.


How Backup Generators Work

A generator works on the principle of electromagnetic induction. That means that when you move a wire through a magnetic field, it creates a current in that wire. A generator simply spins a magnet repeatedly around a wire, forcing electrons through the wire like a pump forcing water through a pipe.

To make the magnet turn, a home power generator contains a small engine, which can be powered by gasoline, liquid propane, or natural gas. The engine pushes a piston back and forth, causing the generator to turn and produce a steady electric current.

There are two main types of home power generators: portable and stationary.

Portable Generators

These smaller generators are mounted on wheels. When a power outage hits, you have to wheel the generator outside, start it, and hook it up to your home’s power system. You can plug your devices directly into the generator or hire an electrician to install a special cable called a manual transfer switch, which feeds the current into your home’s electrical system. From there, you can flip the circuit breakers to route power to the devices you need, such as the fridge and lights.

Portable generators can typically provide enough backup power to keep a few critical systems running, such as your refrigerator and a few lights.

Stationary Generators

Also known as a standby generator, a stationary generator sits in a permanent location outside your house. A stationary generator has an automatic transfer switch built in. If the power goes out, it automatically starts and feeds power into your home’s systems.

Standby generators are bigger than portable ones and can produce enough wattage to run an entire house. However, these whole-house generators are a lot more expensive than portable generators, and you have to hire a professional to install one.


Downsides of Owning a Generator

The benefits of owning a generator are easy to see.

When a storm knocks out power to your area, and all your neighbors are shivering in the dark, you’ll still have heat and lights. If the power outage continues for several days, your generator can also save hundreds of dollars’ worth of food in your fridge and freezer. And if you choose a portable generator, you can take it with you to power a few essential gadgets on a camping trip or at a tailgate party.

However, that doesn’t mean everybody should rush out to buy one. Owning a generator has its share of downsides, including cost, space, maintenance, noise, and safety considerations.

Cost

Home generators aren’t cheap. According to Consumer Reports, the smallest portable models are good for powering your fridge, a sump pump, a few lights, and maybe a TV, and they cost at least $400. Larger portable models can run bigger appliances, such as an air conditioner, and can cost up to $1,500.

Standby generators are more convenient to use but usually run at least $2,000. On top of that, you have to pay a professional installer to hook them up. According to Consumer Reports, generator installation can cost anywhere from a few thousand to over $10,000.

Space

It can be hard to find a place to use a portable generator. It has to be on level ground and at least 20 feet from your house — but close enough to connect to it with an extension cord.

You also have to protect it from the weather because it could electrocute you if it gets wet. But you can’t put it inside a shed. It’s unsafe to run in an enclosed space. And between uses, you have to find a place to store it to protect it from harsh weather and theft.

Stationary units live in the same spot in your yard year-round, so you don’t need to worry about storing them. However, they take up a fair bit of space and can be unattractive.

You also need to store fuel for your generator. That’s easy if you have a home standby generator that runs on natural gas, but you must store gasoline and propane outside your home for safety reasons. That said, you must keep the fuel locked up to protect it from thieves and vandals, which means adding a shed or detached garage unless you already have one.

Maintenance

Like any appliance, a generator needs regular maintenance to keep it running well. You have to keep it fueled and check the oil, filters, and spark plugs regularly. You also need to start it monthly and run it for about 20 minutes to keep the battery charged and the fuel lines free of moisture.

You also have to maintain your fuel supplies. Gasoline can go bad over time, so you must add a fuel stabilizer and refill your cans every year or so. Regular maintenance is necessary if you want to be able to count on your generator to work when an emergency strikes.

Noise

Generators are loud. The best ones are quiet enough to avoid bothering you while you’re indoors, but you could still get complaints from the neighbors. Some towns even have anti-noise ordinances that restrict how loud your generator can be or at what times you can use it.

Safety

You have to be careful when using a portable generator. It must be properly ventilated to avoid causing a fire or producing deadly carbon monoxide. HuffPost reports that during Hurricane Sandy, generators were responsible for at least nine deaths, mostly from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Even a properly vented generator gives off some fumes. So ensure it is at least 20 feet from all doors and windows to avoid letting any harmful fumes into the house. Burning gas or propane produces carbon dioxide, which is toxic to humans. It’s also the main gas responsible for climate change. That means the more you run your generator, the more you increase your carbon footprint.


Alternatives to Owning a Generator

Despite the many drawbacks of owning an emergency generator, some people think they have no choice because it’s the only way to keep the power on. But there are other ways to provide power for a few of your devices — or to get by with no backup power source at all.

In many cases, it’s possible to stay safe and comfortable for at least a few days without electricity.

Portable Power Stations

If your power needs are modest, you can meet them with a device called a portable power station. These backup power mini-systems are basically large batteries inside protective cases with built-in AC outlets and other ports for plugging in your various devices.

According to Wirecutter, they weigh around 50 pounds and can store anywhere from 100 to 1,800 watts of energy. That’s enough to keep key electronics, such as a phone or laptop, running for hours or even days at a time.

Unlike generators, portable power stations run silently and don’t require a backup supply of fuel. You can charge them with ordinary household current or, in some cases, with a solar panel.

However, they typically cost more than portable generators, and their power output is insufficient to run your central air conditioning or any large appliance. And even if you’re using them only for electronic devices, fans, or medical equipment, such as a CPAP machine (breathing mask), they can’t store enough juice to get you through a weeklong blackout.

Cooling Methods

There are many ways to stay cool without air conditioning. You can block out the sun’s hot rays with curtains and reflective window film and keep your home well insulated to prevent it from heating up as quickly. At night, when it’s cooler, you can open windows to let in the breeze.

You can also cool yourself, rather than the space around you. Taking a cold shower or applying cold compresses lowers your body temperature directly. Or if your home has a basement, you can retreat down there during the day to take advantage of the cooler temperature.

Heating Sources

Most heating systems depend on electricity to either create heat or distribute it throughout the house. So if a winter storm takes out the power to your home, you need some way to stay warm until the power comes back on.

You can heat an indoor space with a wood-burning or gas-burning fireplace, wood stove, pellet stove, or kerosene heater. Like a generator, all these fuel-burning appliances need proper ventilation for safety.

And if the winters in your area aren’t all that cold, you might be able to get away with bundling up in your warmest clothing and piling on the blankets at night.

Water Supply

If your home is hooked up to the municipal water and sewer lines, a power outage shouldn’t disrupt your water supply. But if you have a well that works with an electric pump, you need another source of water for bathing, drinking, and flushing your toilets.

One solution is to store water in jugs to get you through an emergency. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends keeping at least 1 gallon of water per day for each person and each pet in the house in your family emergency kit. Ideally, you should have a total of 14 gallons per person — enough to get you through two weeks without water.

You can also use rainwater collected in buckets or a water barrel for washing or flushing toilets.

Backup Power for Sump Pumps

Many homes rely on a sump pump to keep the basement from flooding. But if a storm knocks out the power, it can disable the pump when you need it the most.

To avoid this problem, you can choose a pump with a battery backup, which uses a car or boat battery to keep it going while the power is out. If you’re on the municipal water system, another option is to install a backup pump that relies on water pressure rather than electricity.

Food Storage

During a prolonged power outage, keeping your refrigerator door closed as much as possible helps the food stay fresh. Food stored in a full freezer should stay safe for up to 48 hours without power, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. However, food in the refrigerator will go bad much faster.

Packing the fridge with blocks of ice or dry ice can keep food safe to eat for a couple of days. Alternatively, you can transfer perishable food to a cooler, which requires less ice to pack. A good rule of thumb is to eat all your perishable food first, before it goes bad. After that, you can rely on shelf-stable foods, such as canned goods, cereal, pasta, dry beans, crackers, peanut butter, and powdered or ultra-pasteurized milk.

Cooking Methods

If you have a gas stove, you can continue to use it during a power outage. Most modern stoves use electric igniters, but you can always light them the old-fashioned way — with a match.

You can also cook outdoors on a grill, portable camp stove, or solar cooker. If you have a wood-burning stove or fireplace, you can do some cooking on that.

Power for Phones

If you have an old-fashioned landline phone — the kind that runs on actual copper cable — it will probably still work during a power outage. If not, there are several ways to recharge your cellphone when the electricity is out.

For $25 to $80, you can buy a solar phone charger that can top up your phone battery after about half an hour in direct sunlight. There are also inexpensive hand-crank chargers, which often double as emergency flashlights or portable radios. And finally, you can conserve your phone’s battery power by keeping it switched off in between calls.

Lighting Sources

At night, you can keep your home lit with candles, flashlights, or battery-powered lanterns. Modern LED technology makes it possible for a lantern or flashlight to last a lot longer on one set of batteries. However, it’s worth keeping extra batteries on hand in case the power outage goes on for weeks.

Entertainment

In the modern world, we tend to rely a lot on electronic gadgets — TVs, smartphones, computer games — to keep us amused. During a power outage, you have to fall back on more old-fashioned diversions, such as books. Besides reading to yourself, you can take turns reading aloud with your family members to entertain each other.

You can also work on jigsaw puzzles or play tabletop games, such as board games, card games, and party games like charades.


Final Word

In the end, my husband and I decided not to invest in a generator.

Instead, we opted to find other ways to prepare for winter storms. We installed a gas fireplace for heat, bought a hand-cranked radio that could also charge our cellphones, and got an LED lantern for lighting. These supplies — plus a gas stove and plenty of water, nonperishable food, and books — give us the confidence we can make it through another long stretch without power if we have to.

And in the end, that’s the most critical consideration: peace of mind. If you can’t sleep easy without a generator or some other backup power source to get you through a lengthy power outage, then a generator is a worthwhile investment, regardless of what the numbers say.

But if you decide the expense and effort of owning a generator outweigh the benefits, there are plenty of other ways to weather a natural disaster.

Source: moneycrashers.com

6 First Time Home Buying Mistakes I Made When I Bought My First House

Are you thinking about buying a house? Do you want to avoid common home buying mistakes?

I bought my first house when I was only 20 years old. Even though that was a little over 11 years ago, I have looked back many times and wondered how I did it.first time home buying mistakes

first time home buying mistakes

I made so many first time home buyer mistakes!

Of course, I was young and had a lot to learn. But, I definitely could have done more research to avoid many of the home buying mistakes I made, like not comparing interest rates or understanding the total cost of buying a home.

I’m not alone in how I approached buying a house. There are many people who simply do not understand everything that goes into buying a house, and that’s something that can negatively impact your finances and cause stress. 

Over the years, I have received many emails about buying a house in your early 20s or when you’re young. I also get lots of questions from people who have been renting and are thinking about buying their first home.

I thought it would be interesting to look back on the home buying mistakes I made and explain how to avoid the same mistakes I made. Hopefully you can be a better prepared home buyer than I was!

The mistakes first time home buyers make can cost you money and may even lead to regret. Perhaps you’re wondering why you even bought your home!

One thing you may not know about me is that the first house I ever lived in was actually my own. Growing up, we always lived in small apartments and rented. I wanted to have a home of my own – moving so often as a child was tiring.

Buying a house and being a homeowner was a completely new thing for me.

I had never done yard work, had to deal with house maintenance, home repairs, or anything like that.

I was as new as could be when it comes to living in a house!

It was a buyer’s market when we started searching. It was back in 2009, so the housing market was coming down. This meant that a monthly mortgage payment wasn’t too much more than rent at an apartment.

I felt like I was ready to buy my first house, and I needed a place to live.

So, buying a house seemed like a logical decision.

I made many home buying mistakes, like I said. While I made it through everything, my mistakes could easily have led to major financial trouble.

Read on below to learn more about mistakes home buyers make and my first-time home buyer tips.

Related content on home buying mistakes:

Here were some of my home buying mistakes.

 

first-time home buyer mistakes

This was our first house.

I didn’t prepare.

I was only 20, so I didn’t really understand how things worked, even though I thought I did at the time.

I found an online mortgage lender, and back in 2009, that was kind of a new thing. The company ended up doing a bunch of odd things and made a bunch of paperwork mistakes. It almost seemed scammy because online mortgages were so new at the time.

While my realtor was great and a family friend, she recommended a mortgage loan officer to me, and I just used that person.

The loan officer was great and very friendly.

But, I didn’t compare interest rates at all, I didn’t try to raise my credit score before I started looking at homes, and more.

Instead, I should have been paying attention to my credit score and worked to increase it before I started looking at rates. Then, I should have applied with multiple mortgage lenders and found the best interest rate.

Basically, I didn’t prepare.

Had I spent time increasing my credit score and shopping around for better rates, I could have gotten a better interest rate and saved money on mortgage payments.

While a small percentage difference in interest may not sound like much, it makes a big difference in how much you pay each month and how much you pay over the course of your loan.

For example, here’s the difference in two 30-year mortgages on a $200,000 home (this is before annual taxes being added in to the monthly payment):

  • With an interest rate of 3.25% your monthly payment would be $870, and you would pay $313,349 over the course of your loan.
  • With an interest rate of 4% your monthly payment would be $955, and you would pay $343,739.

That’s a difference of $85 a month, and you will have paid $30,000 more once your mortgage is paid off.

Looking back, I would have done more research on the home buying process and the factors that impact interest rates.

One of the easiest things you can do to avoid this mistake is to start paying attention to your credit score. You can receive free credit reports and credit scores, and I recommend reading Everything You Need To Know About How To Build Credit to learn more.

I avoided adding up all of the costs because it was scary.

Okay, so I knew that having a house could/would be expensive, and luckily we were fine, but wow, are there a lot of costs!

I avoided adding them all up for a while because I knew they would be higher than I thought. Eventually I did, and I was right – adding everything all together was a doozy.

We didn’t start adding up these costs until we were farther along in the buying process, and this is one of the home buying mistakes many people make. 

There are lots of people who only think about their mortgage payment, but there are so many more costs associated with buying a home

Before we purchased a home, we should have gone through all of the typical costs of owning a house and compared it to our housing budget. Comparing your current budget to your new homeowner’s budget will tell you whether or not you can actually afford to buy a home.

Here are some of the homeownership costs you want to consider:

  • Gas/propane.  Many homes run on gas in order to have hot water, to use the stove, and so on.
  • Electricity. Generally, the bigger your home then the higher your electricity bill will be.
  • Sewer. On average, your sewer bill may cost around $30 a month from what I’ve seen.
  • Trash. This isn’t super expensive either, but it’s still a cost to include.
  • Water. Water bills can vary widely. I know many who live in areas where the average water bill is a few hundred each month.
  • Property taxes. Property taxes can vary widely from town to town. You may find yourself looking at two similar houses with similar price tags, but the property taxes may differ by thousands of dollars annually. That is a LOT of money. While it may seem small when compared to the actual home purchase price, remember that you have to pay property taxes annually and a difference of just $3,600 a year is $300 a month for life.
  • Homeowners insurance. Homeowners insurance can be cheap in some areas but crazy expensive in others. Don’t forget to look into the cost of earthquake, flood, and hurricane insurance as well as that can add up quickly depending on where you live – not thinking about these was one of the home buying mistakes I made.
  • Maintenance and repairs. Even if your home is brand new, you may have to pay for repairs, which is something that will come up eventually. No matter how old your home is, repair and maintenance costs will eventually come into play.
  • Homeowners association fees. This can also vary widely. You should always see if the house you are interested in is in an HOA because the fees can be high and there may also be rules you don’t like.
  • Home furnishings. Furnishing your home can be done cheaply, but I know some who buy huge homes but can’t afford to put anything in them, such as a table, a bed, and so on. Why own a $500,000 house if you don’t have any furniture?

 

I probably should have spent less on the actual house.

While the house we bought was less than the amount we were pre-approved for, I definitely think that we could have found a house for even less.

We bought at the top of our budget, and this is one home buying mistake that can really get you in trouble.

Thinking back on it, the amount that we were pre-approved for, as young 20 year olds, was pretty insane. I am very glad that we did not buy a house that was that expensive.

It’s not uncommon to be approved for much more than your budget realistically allows for. Just because the bank approves you for a $350,000 mortgage, for example, does not mean you can afford to buy a house at that price.

We bought at the top of our budget thinking that we would get better jobs eventually. While that worked out in our favor since we were each barely making above minimum wage, it was a decision that could have ended quite badly.

 

We were living paycheck to paycheck and didn’t have an emergency fund.

We were young and didn’t have high paying jobs when we bought our house. In fact, we were barely making more than minimum wage at our jobs.

While we never racked up credit card debt, I did accrue student loans and we were living paycheck to paycheck.

Had one major (or even minor) thing happened with our new house, the only option would have been taking on debt. This is not where you want to be if you have just taken out a big mortgage. 

The best way to avoid this first time home buyer mistake is to set some money aside for emergencies before you buy, and to buy a house that fits in your budget. You want to be able to continue saving while making your new monthly home payments.

 

Make sure your home insurance covers what you need.

While I never had to use my home insurance, there were a few things that it did not cover, and I should have at least thought about them beforehand.

One of the biggest coverage issues was flooding. Flooding is a common problem where we lived in Missouri, yet I didn’t realize until a few years after I had already lived in the house that flooding was not covered unless you signed up for an additional policy.

Now, we weren’t in a floodplain – your lender may require you to buy special flood insurance if you live in a floodplain – but basement flooding was still a fairly common issue where we lived. 

Another special insurance consideration are earthquakes. Many normal home insurance policies do not cover earthquakes.

You can avoid this home buying mistake by researching what is the best kind of insurance policy for where you live. Floods and earthquakes aren’t a problem everywhere, but in some places you may want to have that kind of coverage.

 

Have a larger down payment.

We were 20, and we didn’t have a lot of money saved up before we bought our house.

Therefore, we did not put down a 20% down payment. That might sound like a lot, but 20% is the recommended amount to put down if you want to avoid PMI (private mortgage insurance).

A lender charges PMI because putting less than 20% down makes the loan look like a riskier investment for them. PMI protects lenders from borrowers who default on their loans.

PMI is normally around 0.5% to 1% of the mortgage annually, and it’s added to your monthly payment. If you borrowed a $200,000 mortgage, you would likely pay between $1,000 to $2,000 a year until you paid down enough of your mortgage principal to remove PMI.

We put less than 5% down towards our house purchase, and this led to us having PMI.

I don’t remember exactly how much we paid each month for PMI, but looking back, I could have used that money to pay off my student loans faster, save more, and so on.

While having a larger down payment isn’t one of the home buying mistakes I could have easily changed back then, in general, just saving more money instead of frivolously spending it in the beginning would have been a good decision.

Related content: Can You Remove PMI From Your Mortgage?

 

So, what’s going on with the house now?

As many of you know, we sold our house over 5 years ago. We wanted to travel more, and selling our house made more sense than keeping it.

We actually sold it for quite a loss, as the market was further down than when we bought it.

I’m happy that we bought the house – it taught us a lot, gave us responsibility, and gave us a place to live! And, it taught us how to avoid home buying mistakes in the future.

One of the things I haven’t mentioned is what we paid each for our mortgage. Our monthly payments were just under $1,000. 

Where we lived in the midwest is known for being a low cost of living area. I can’t imagine how we would have bought a house in some other parts of the U.S.

But, the low cost of living meant that buying a house at 20 was more doable.

Is it normal to regret buying a house? Is it normal to have buyers remorse after buying a house?

I don’t know what the statistics are on home buyers remorse, but it does happen. Hopefully with the tips before buying a house above, you can avoid that as much as possible.

Also, being realistic when it comes to what to expect when buying a house can help greatly as well.

What home buying mistakes did you make when you purchased your home?

Related Posts

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Source: makingsenseofcents.com

Mistakes I Made When I Bought My First House At The Age of 20

Are you thinking about buying a house? Do you want to avoid common home buying mistakes?

I bought my first house when I was only 20 years old. Even though that was a little over 11 years ago, I have looked back many times and wondered how I did it.first time home buying mistakes

first time home buying mistakes

I made so many first time home buyer mistakes!

Of course, I was young and had a lot to learn. But, I definitely could have done more research to avoid many of the home buying mistakes I made, like not comparing interest rates or understanding the total cost of buying a home.

I’m not alone in how I approached buying a house. There are many people who simply do not understand everything that goes into buying a house, and that’s something that can negatively impact your finances and cause stress. 

Over the years, I have received many emails about buying a house in your early 20s or when you’re young. I also get lots of questions from people who have been renting and are thinking about buying their first home.

I thought it would be interesting to look back on the home buying mistakes I made and explain how to avoid the same mistakes I made. Hopefully you can be a better prepared home buyer than I was!

The mistakes first time home buyers make can cost you money and may even lead to regret. Perhaps you’re wondering why you even bought your home!

One thing you may not know about me is that the first house I ever lived in was actually my own. Growing up, we always lived in small apartments and rented. I wanted to have a home of my own – moving so often as a child was tiring.

Buying a house and being a homeowner was a completely new thing for me.

I had never done yard work, had to deal with house maintenance, home repairs, or anything like that.

I was as new as could be when it comes to living in a house!

It was a buyer’s market when we started searching. It was back in 2009, so the housing market was coming down. This meant that a monthly mortgage payment wasn’t too much more than rent at an apartment.

I felt like I was ready to buy my first house, and I needed a place to live.

So, buying a house seemed like a logical decision.

I made many home buying mistakes, like I said. While I made it through everything, my mistakes could easily have led to major financial trouble.

Read on below to learn more about mistakes home buyers make and my first-time home buyer tips.

Related content on home buying mistakes:

Here were some of my home buying mistakes.

 

first-time home buyer mistakes

This was our first house.

I didn’t prepare.

I was only 20, so I didn’t really understand how things worked, even though I thought I did at the time.

I found an online mortgage lender, and back in 2009, that was kind of a new thing. The company ended up doing a bunch of odd things and made a bunch of paperwork mistakes. It almost seemed scammy because online mortgages were so new at the time.

While my realtor was great and a family friend, she recommended a mortgage loan officer to me, and I just used that person.

The loan officer was great and very friendly.

But, I didn’t compare interest rates at all, I didn’t try to raise my credit score before I started looking at homes, and more.

Instead, I should have been paying attention to my credit score and worked to increase it before I started looking at rates. Then, I should have applied with multiple mortgage lenders and found the best interest rate.

Basically, I didn’t prepare.

Had I spent time increasing my credit score and shopping around for better rates, I could have gotten a better interest rate and saved money on mortgage payments.

While a small percentage difference in interest may not sound like much, it makes a big difference in how much you pay each month and how much you pay over the course of your loan.

For example, here’s the difference in two 30-year mortgages on a $200,000 home (this is before annual taxes being added in to the monthly payment):

  • With an interest rate of 3.25% your monthly payment would be $870, and you would pay $313,349 over the course of your loan.
  • With an interest rate of 4% your monthly payment would be $955, and you would pay $343,739.

That’s a difference of $85 a month, and you will have paid $30,000 more once your mortgage is paid off.

Looking back, I would have done more research on the home buying process and the factors that impact interest rates.

One of the easiest things you can do to avoid this mistake is to start paying attention to your credit score. You can receive free credit reports and credit scores, and I recommend reading Everything You Need To Know About How To Build Credit to learn more.

I avoided adding up all of the costs because it was scary.

Okay, so I knew that having a house could/would be expensive, and luckily we were fine, but wow, are there a lot of costs!

I avoided adding them all up for a while because I knew they would be higher than I thought. Eventually I did, and I was right – adding everything all together was a doozy.

We didn’t start adding up these costs until we were farther along in the buying process, and this is one of the home buying mistakes many people make. 

There are lots of people who only think about their mortgage payment, but there are so many more costs associated with buying a home

Before we purchased a home, we should have gone through all of the typical costs of owning a house and compared it to our housing budget. Comparing your current budget to your new homeowner’s budget will tell you whether or not you can actually afford to buy a home.

Here are some of the homeownership costs you want to consider:

  • Gas/propane.  Many homes run on gas in order to have hot water, to use the stove, and so on.
  • Electricity. Generally, the bigger your home then the higher your electricity bill will be.
  • Sewer. On average, your sewer bill may cost around $30 a month from what I’ve seen.
  • Trash. This isn’t super expensive either, but it’s still a cost to include.
  • Water. Water bills can vary widely. I know many who live in areas where the average water bill is a few hundred each month.
  • Property taxes. Property taxes can vary widely from town to town. You may find yourself looking at two similar houses with similar price tags, but the property taxes may differ by thousands of dollars annually. That is a LOT of money. While it may seem small when compared to the actual home purchase price, remember that you have to pay property taxes annually and a difference of just $3,600 a year is $300 a month for life.
  • Homeowners insurance. Homeowners insurance can be cheap in some areas but crazy expensive in others. Don’t forget to look into the cost of earthquake, flood, and hurricane insurance as well as that can add up quickly depending on where you live – not thinking about these was one of the home buying mistakes I made.
  • Maintenance and repairs. Even if your home is brand new, you may have to pay for repairs, which is something that will come up eventually. No matter how old your home is, repair and maintenance costs will eventually come into play.
  • Homeowners association fees. This can also vary widely. You should always see if the house you are interested in is in an HOA because the fees can be high and there may also be rules you don’t like.
  • Home furnishings. Furnishing your home can be done cheaply, but I know some who buy huge homes but can’t afford to put anything in them, such as a table, a bed, and so on. Why own a $500,000 house if you don’t have any furniture?

 

I probably should have spent less on the actual house.

While the house we bought was less than the amount we were pre-approved for, I definitely think that we could have found a house for even less.

We bought at the top of our budget, and this is one home buying mistake that can really get you in trouble.

Thinking back on it, the amount that we were pre-approved for, as young 20 year olds, was pretty insane. I am very glad that we did not buy a house that was that expensive.

It’s not uncommon to be approved for much more than your budget realistically allows for. Just because the bank approves you for a $350,000 mortgage, for example, does not mean you can afford to buy a house at that price.

We bought at the top of our budget thinking that we would get better jobs eventually. While that worked out in our favor since we were each barely making above minimum wage, it was a decision that could have ended quite badly.

 

We were living paycheck to paycheck and didn’t have an emergency fund.

We were young and didn’t have high paying jobs when we bought our house. In fact, we were barely making more than minimum wage at our jobs.

While we never racked up credit card debt, I did accrue student loans and we were living paycheck to paycheck.

Had one major (or even minor) thing happened with our new house, the only option would have been taking on debt. This is not where you want to be if you have just taken out a big mortgage. 

The best way to avoid this first time home buyer mistake is to set some money aside for emergencies before you buy, and to buy a house that fits in your budget. You want to be able to continue saving while making your new monthly home payments.

 

Make sure your home insurance covers what you need.

While I never had to use my home insurance, there were a few things that it did not cover, and I should have at least thought about them beforehand.

One of the biggest coverage issues was flooding. Flooding is a common problem where we lived in Missouri, yet I didn’t realize until a few years after I had already lived in the house that flooding was not covered unless you signed up for an additional policy.

Now, we weren’t in a floodplain – your lender may require you to buy special flood insurance if you live in a floodplain – but basement flooding was still a fairly common issue where we lived. 

Another special insurance consideration are earthquakes. Many normal home insurance policies do not cover earthquakes.

You can avoid this home buying mistake by researching what is the best kind of insurance policy for where you live. Floods and earthquakes aren’t a problem everywhere, but in some places you may want to have that kind of coverage.

 

Have a larger down payment.

We were 20, and we didn’t have a lot of money saved up before we bought our house.

Therefore, we did not put down a 20% down payment. That might sound like a lot, but 20% is the recommended amount to put down if you want to avoid PMI (private mortgage insurance).

A lender charges PMI because putting less than 20% down makes the loan look like a riskier investment for them. PMI protects lenders from borrowers who default on their loans.

PMI is normally around 0.5% to 1% of the mortgage annually, and it’s added to your monthly payment. If you borrowed a $200,000 mortgage, you would likely pay between $1,000 to $2,000 a year until you paid down enough of your mortgage principal to remove PMI.

We put less than 5% down towards our house purchase, and this led to us having PMI.

I don’t remember exactly how much we paid each month for PMI, but looking back, I could have used that money to pay off my student loans faster, save more, and so on.

While having a larger down payment isn’t one of the home buying mistakes I could have easily changed back then, in general, just saving more money instead of frivolously spending it in the beginning would have been a good decision.

Related content: Can You Remove PMI From Your Mortgage?

 

So, what’s going on with the house now?

As many of you know, we sold our house over 5 years ago. We wanted to travel more, and selling our house made more sense than keeping it.

We actually sold it for quite a loss, as the market was further down than when we bought it.

I’m happy that we bought the house – it taught us a lot, gave us responsibility, and gave us a place to live! And, it taught us how to avoid home buying mistakes in the future.

One of the things I haven’t mentioned is what we paid each for our mortgage. Our monthly payments were just under $1,000. 

Where we lived in the midwest is known for being a low cost of living area. I can’t imagine how we would have bought a house in some other parts of the U.S.

But, the low cost of living meant that buying a house at 20 was more doable.

Is it normal to regret buying a house? Is it normal to have buyers remorse after buying a house?

I don’t know what the statistics are on home buyers remorse, but it does happen. Hopefully with the tips before buying a house above, you can avoid that as much as possible.

Also, being realistic when it comes to what to expect when buying a house can help greatly as well.

What home buying mistakes did you make when you purchased your home?

Related Posts

<!–
–>

Source: makingsenseofcents.com

The Hottest Cities in Real Estate Right Now Are ‘Spillover Markets’—Where Are They?

The past year was the ultimate roller-coaster ride in real estate—long upward climbs, steep drops, and no shortage of hairpin curves along the way. And the ride hasn’t come close to slowing down so far in 2021. According to the data on realtor.com® for the first month of the year, it’s clear that the coronavirus pandemic has reshaped house-hunting patterns, and is also driving a whole lot of buying activity.

Our latest deep dive into the hottest U.S. markets for real estate—those metros where homes are flying off the market and listings rack up tons of views from eager buyers—shows plenty of changes from the status quo. We’re seeing “spillover markets,” which are close to a larger metro but have lower prices, dominate the ranking. And that’s true for the market that made it to No. 1 for the first time in almost 10 years: Stockton, CA.

Stockton is a city of about 310,000 people that’s about 72 miles east of San Francisco’s East Bay area. The Stockton metro also encompasses Lodi, a smaller town of about 67,000 that has vineyards and a wine country vibe.

“What we’ve been seeing is, inventory is superlow,” says Jerry Patterson, a Realtor® with Cornerstone Real Estate Group in Stockton. “In Lodi, it’s down 56% compared with this time last year.”

Half of all homes in Stockton and Lodi were selling in fewer than 37 days in January—22 days faster than in January 2020. That’s also 39 days faster than the norm in the rest of the country.

Patterson traces the housing shortage to just after the initial pandemic shutdown last spring.

“It took a couple of months for the listings to dry up—before lockdown, there was a normal amount of inventory,” he says. As in other places, homeowners have been reluctant to put their homes on the market and risk exposure to the coronavirus from potential buyers coming through.

Now, there’s a dearth of homes for sale, plus buyers flooding in from the Bay Area armed with extra cash. He estimates a 60-40 split between local and out-of-town home buyers. While the median listing price here was $480,000 in January, that’s a bargain compared with San Francisco, where it’s around $1 million.

“We’ve always seen [Bay Area buyers] come in here, but now even more so. They’re coming in hordes, but now with lots of cash,” Patterson says.

While they might not be making all-cash offers, often they’re putting up extra cash if a home doesn’t appraise at the agreed-upon selling price, to ensure a sale. Four- and five-bedroom homes are the most popular properties, although starter homes with two or three bedrooms are still in demand by younger couples and families as well as empty nesters.

Two other spillover markets for the Bay Area made the list: Vallejo, just north of San Francisco, and Sacramento, the state capital that’s farther east than Stockton. In general, smaller markets continued to grow in popularity, as they did last year, while denser, larger urban areas became less popular. The 40 largest U.S. markets dropped 27 spots, on average, since last year.

The hot list

Rank Metro Median Dayson Market MedianListing Price
1 Stockton, CA  37 $480,000
2 Rapid City, SD 22 $240,000
3 Burlington, NC 40 $296,000
4 Vallejo, CA 27 $525,000
5 Fort Wayne, IN 42 $225,000
6 Colorado Springs, CO 46 $532,000
7 Lafayette, IN 50 $275,000
8 Reno, NV 46 $637,000
9 Spokane, WA 44 $399,000
10 Sacramento, CA 36 $599,000
11 Topeka, KS 42 $146,000
12 Concord, NH 53 $355,000
13 Yuba City, CA 53 $445,000
14 Modesto, CA 43 $459,000
15 Janesville, WI 53 $227,000
16 Springfield, OH 54 $137,000
17 Fresno, CA 38 $365,000
18 Ogden, UT 36 $496,000
19 Columbus, OH 53 $307,000
20 Pueblo, CO 50 $339,000

Source: realtor.com

15 States With the Most Extreme Weather

Tornadoes are an example of extreme weather
Todd Shoemake / Shutterstock.com

This story originally appeared on Filterbuy.

The year 2020 brought a series of historically severe weather-related disasters all over the United States.

In November, the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season set a new record for the number of tropical and subtropical storms in a single year. The 2020 wildfire season in the western United States burned millions of acres. In the Midwest, an August derecho brought torrential rain, hail, tornadoes, and sustained wind speeds over 100 miles per hour in Iowa and Illinois.

The severe weather events of 2020 are part of a larger trend — the frequency of extreme weather conditions in the U.S. is on the rise as global climate change accelerates. According to the CDC, the effects of climate change are likely to include more variable weather, heat waves, heavy precipitation events, flooding, droughts, more intense storms such as hurricanes, sea-level rise, and air pollution.

Since the 1970s, the frequency of extreme weather conditions in the U.S. has risen

Hurricane flooding
Stratos Brilakis / Shutterstock.com

The frequency of extreme weather conditions in the United States has risen steadily since the 1970s, as demonstrated by the U.S. Climate Extremes Index (CEI). The CEI was developed to quantify observed changes in climate within the contiguous United States. The index includes temperature, precipitation, drought severity, and hurricane/tropical storm intensity. Based on these measures, extreme weather conditions have trended upward for nearly half a century, and four of the five highest years for this measure occurred within the last decade.

Extreme weather is not just more common — it’s also bringing even greater financial impacts to the areas affected through property damage, business interruptions, and other economic losses. Through the first nine months of 2020, 16 weather and climate disasters produced losses exceeding $1 billion, according to NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI). This year is the sixth consecutive year with 10 or more billion-dollar disasters, an unprecedented milestone.

As both the intensity and number of severe weather events increase, so do the total costs of these disasters for the U.S. The same data from NCEI shows a dramatic increase in five-year average costs associated with severe weather events over the past decade, from around $30 billion in 2010 to over $100 billion in 2020.

Not all states experience severe weather in quite the same way, and some are much more susceptible to highly variable weather conditions. To identify which states have the most extreme weather, researchers at Filterbuy created a composite score for each state. Using data from the National Centers for Environmental Information, researchers created an extreme weather score based on each state’s all-time maximum and minimum temperatures, maximum 24-hour precipitation, maximum 24-hour snowfall, and number of annual tornadoes per 10,000 square miles.

Here are the states with the most extreme weather.

15. Maryland

Baltimore, Maryland
Hethers / Shutterstock.com

Extreme weather score: 55.5

All-time maximum temperature: 109°F

All-time minimum temperature: -40°F

All-time greatest 24-hour precipitation: 14.8 inches

All-time maximum 24-hour snowfall: 31.0 inches

Annual tornadoes per 10,000 square miles: 9.9 per 10,000 square miles

14. Iowa

Des Moines, Iowa
f11photo / Shutterstock.com

Extreme weather score: 56.3

All-time maximum temperature: 118°F

All-time minimum temperature: -47°F

All-time greatest 24-hour precipitation: 13.2 inches

All-time maximum 24-hour snowfall: 24.0 inches

Annual tornadoes per 10,000 square miles: 9.1 per 10,000 square miles

13. Texas

Fort Worth Texas
Barbara Smyers / Shutterstock.com

Extreme weather score: 56.7

All-time maximum temperature: 120°F

All-time minimum temperature: -23°F

All-time greatest 24-hour precipitation: 42.0 inches

All-time maximum 24-hour snowfall: 26.0 inches

Annual tornadoes per 10,000 square miles: 5.9 per 10,000 square miles

12. Nebraska

Omaha Nebraska
Aspects and Angles / Shutterstock.com

Extreme weather score: 56.7

All-time maximum temperature: 118°F

All-time minimum temperature: -47°F

All-time greatest 24-hour precipitation: 13.2 inches

All-time maximum 24-hour snowfall: 27.0 inches

Annual tornadoes per 10,000 square miles: 7.4 per 10,000 square miles

11. Montana

Montana town
Nick Fox / Shutterstock.com

Extreme weather score: 58.0

All-time maximum temperature: 117°F

All-time minimum temperature: -70°F

All-time greatest 24-hour precipitation: 11.5 inches

All-time maximum 24-hour snowfall: 48.0 inches

Annual tornadoes per 10,000 square miles: 0.7 per 10,000 square miles

10. Missouri

St. Charles Missouri
Rob Neville Photos / Shutterstock.com

Extreme weather score: 58.8

All-time maximum temperature: 118°F

All-time minimum temperature: -40°F

All-time greatest 24-hour precipitation: 18.2 inches

All-time maximum 24-hour snowfall: 24.0 inches

Annual tornadoes per 10,000 square miles: 6.5 per 10,000 square miles

9. New Mexico

New Mexico
turtix / Shutterstock.com

Extreme weather score: 58.8

All-time maximum temperature: 122°F

All-time minimum temperature: -50°F

All-time greatest 24-hour precipitation: 11.3 inches

All-time maximum 24-hour snowfall: 41.0 inches

Annual tornadoes per 10,000 square miles: 0.9 per 10,000 square miles

8. Oklahoma

Oklahoma City skyline
Natalia Bratslavsky / Shutterstock.com

Extreme weather score: 59.2

All-time maximum temperature: 120°F

All-time minimum temperature: -31°F

All-time greatest 24-hour precipitation: 15.7 inches

All-time maximum 24-hour snowfall: 27.0 inches

Annual tornadoes per 10,000 square miles: 9.0 per 10,000 square miles

7. Washington

Tacoma, Washington
Druid007 / Shutterstock.com

Extreme weather score: 59.2

All-time maximum temperature: 118°F

All-time minimum temperature: -48°F

All-time greatest 24-hour precipitation: 14.3 inches

All-time maximum 24-hour snowfall: 65.0 inches

Annual tornadoes per 10,000 square miles: 0.4 per 10,000 square miles

6. Kansas

Wichita, Kansas
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

Extreme weather score: 63.7

All-time maximum temperature: 121°F

All-time minimum temperature: -40°F

All-time greatest 24-hour precipitation: 12.6 inches

All-time maximum 24-hour snowfall: 30.0 inches

Annual tornadoes per 10,000 square miles: 11.7 per 10,000 square miles

5. South Dakota

Rapid City, South Dakota
Sopotnicki / Shutterstock.com

Extreme weather score: 64.5

All-time maximum temperature: 120°F

All-time minimum temperature: -58°F

All-time greatest 24-hour precipitation: 8.7 inches

All-time maximum 24-hour snowfall: 52.0 inches

Annual tornadoes per 10,000 square miles: 4.7 per 10,000 square miles

4. Colorado

Denver, Colorado
f11photo / Shutterstock.com

Extreme weather score: 67.0

All-time maximum temperature: 115°F

All-time minimum temperature: -61°F

All-time greatest 24-hour precipitation: 11.9 inches

All-time maximum 24-hour snowfall: 75.8 inches

Annual tornadoes per 10,000 square miles: 5.1 per 10,000 square miles

3. Illinois

Chicago, Illinois
f11photo / Shutterstock.com

Extreme weather score: 67.8

All-time maximum temperature: 117°F

All-time minimum temperature: -38°F

All-time greatest 24-hour precipitation: 16.9 inches

All-time maximum 24-hour snowfall: 36.0 inches

Annual tornadoes per 10,000 square miles: 9.7 per 10,000 square miles

2. Minnesota

Minneapolis, Minnesota
Pinkcandy / Shutterstock.com

Extreme weather score: 68.6

All-time maximum temperature: 115°F

All-time minimum temperature: -60°F

All-time greatest 24-hour precipitation: 15.1 inches

All-time maximum 24-hour snowfall: 36.0 inches

Annual tornadoes per 10,000 square miles: 5.7 per 10,000 square miles

1. California

San Francisco, California
IM_photo / Shutterstock.com

Extreme weather score: 73.1

All-time maximum temperature: 134°F

All-time minimum temperature: -45°F

All-time greatest 24-hour precipitation: 25.8 inches

All-time maximum 24-hour snowfall: 67.0 inches

Annual tornadoes per 10,000 square miles: 0.7 per 10,000 square miles

Methodology

A man studies financial data at his computer
NicoElNino / Shutterstock.com

To identify the states with the most extreme weather, researchers at Filterbuy created a composite score based on the following factors weighted equally:

  • All-time maximum temperature
  • All-time minimum temperature
  • All-time greatest 24-hour precipitation
  • All-time maximum 24-hour snowfall
  • Annual tornadoes per 10,000 square miles

All of the data used in this analysis is from the National Centers for Environmental Information State Climate Extremes Committee Records.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

The 10 Worst Climate Disasters in U.S. History

Woman outside her ruined home after a natural disaster or fire
Vlad Teodor / Shutterstock.com

This story originally appeared on Porch.

One impact of climate change is that the number and severity of climate-related disasters is on the rise.

With the warming of the planet, several factors combine to make extreme weather more common.

Higher temperatures are more likely to produce heat waves and drought conditions, which increase the likelihood of wildfires. Warmer air can hold more water vapor, which leads to wetter storms, and with them, more flooding. Increased heat and evaporation have also combined to make tropical cyclones more common and more severe in recent years.

The financial consequences of these trends are enormous. Loss of life, property damage, infrastructure failures and business interruptions are some of the widely felt direct consequences when more intense natural disasters occur.

In the U.S., the costs associated with so-called billion-dollar weather and climate disaster events — those in which total damages exceeded $1 billion in today’s dollars — have grown sharply over the last decade, from a five-year annual average of $29.2 billion in 2010 to $121.4 billion in 2020.

Apart from direct damages, even the threat of weather disasters can have financial impacts. Property values in vulnerable areas may shift downward as severe weather disasters become more likely. Insurers can charge higher rates or make coverage harder to obtain for properties that could be at risk. And property owners may find themselves paying a premium for structures that are resistant to weather-related damage.

To find the worst disasters, researchers analyzed data from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information and ranked events based on their estimated cost in 2020 dollars.

Following is the list of the worst climate disasters in U.S. history.

10. U.S. drought/heatwave

Hot sun
aapsky / Shutterstock.com
  • Date: 2012
  • Estimated cost (2020 dollars): $34.5 billion
  • Estimated cost (actual dollars): $30 billion
  • Number of deaths: 123
  • Most impacted area: Midwest and West

High temperatures and low moisture brought on the most severe drought the U.S. had seen in decades during the summer of 2012. Drought conditions and more than two months of heat waves were directly responsible for more than 100 deaths and billions in economic losses due to failed harvests for crops like corn and soybeans.

9. Hurricane Ike

Hurricane Ike causing flooding in Florida
forestpath / Shutterstock.com
  • Date: September 2008
  • Estimated cost (2020 dollars): $36.9 billion
  • Estimated cost (actual dollars): $30 billion
  • Number of deaths: 112
  • Most impacted area: Texas

After hitting Cuba as a Category 4 storm several days earlier, Hurricane Ike made landfall as a Category 2 storm near Galveston, Texas, on Sept. 13, 2008.

Ike damaged or destroyed more than 75% of the homes in Galveston and brought widespread damage elsewhere in eastern Texas. Damage totaled $30 billion.

8. Midwest flooding

Flooding
Brymer / Shutterstock.com
  • Date: Summer 1993
  • Estimated cost (2020 dollars): $38.1 billion
  • Estimated cost (actual dollars): $21 billion
  • Number of deaths: 48
  • Most impacted area: Midwest

The Midwest experienced unusually high precipitation from rain and snow in 1992 and the first half of 1993.

As a result, parts of the Upper Mississippi River were at flood levels for almost 200 days in some locations, while the Missouri River basin experienced flood levels for nearly 100 days.

The ongoing floods destroyed tens of thousands of homes and inundated millions of acres of farmland.

7. U.S. drought/heatwave

high temperatures
Antonio Guillem / Shutterstock.com
  • Date: Summer 1988
  • Estimated cost (2020 dollars): $45 billion
  • Estimated cost (actual dollars): $20 billion
  • Number of deaths: 454
  • Most impacted area: Midwest, West, Southeast

As the worst drought the U.S. had seen since the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, the drought of 1988 covered nearly half of the United States at its peak, and continued as late as 1990 in some locations.

The persistent hot, dry conditions led to billions of dollars in losses from crops and livestock, along with wildfires in Yellowstone National Park that burned nearly 800,000 acres.

6. Hurricane Andrew

Homes destroyed by Hurricane Andrew
Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com
  • Date: August 1992
  • Estimated cost (2020 dollars): $50.8 billion
  • Estimated cost (actual dollars): $27 billion
  • Number of deaths: 61
  • Most impacted area: Florida and Louisiana

The 1992 Atlantic hurricane season’s first major storm was one of the most powerful on record. Andrew is only one of four hurricanes ever to make landfall in the U.S. as a Category 5 storm, with winds reaching nearly 174 miles per hour.

The storm ripped through southern Florida before re-emerging in the Gulf of Mexico and making a second landfall on the Louisiana coast several days later, causing more than $27 billion in damage.

5. Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Irma flooding in Florida
FotoKina / Shutterstock.com
  • Date: September 2017
  • Estimated cost (2020 dollars): $52.5 billion
  • Estimated cost (actual dollars): $50 billion
  • Number of deaths: 97
  • Most impacted area: Florida and South Carolina

2017’s hyperactive Atlantic hurricane season remains the costliest on record, and Hurricane Irma is one of the major reasons why.

After making landfall as a Category 4, Irma carved a path northward through the heart of Florida and into the southeastern U.S., bringing coastal flooding to Georgia and South Carolina as well. The storm’s damage totaled $50 billion.

4. Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane
Harvepino / Shutterstock.com
  • Date: October 2012
  • Estimated cost (2020 dollars): $74.8 billion
  • Estimated cost (actual dollars): $65 billion
  • Number of deaths: 159
  • Most impacted area: New York and New Jersey

At more than 900 miles in diameter, Hurricane (or Superstorm) Sandy was felt in 24 states, but Sandy is most remembered for its damage to the Mid-Atlantic region. After following a path north along the Atlantic coast, Sandy made an unusual westward turn into New York and New Jersey before merging with another storm system. Flooding and storm damage in New York City and other major East Coast metros contributed to Sandy’s $65 billion in damage.

3. Hurricane Maria

Hurricane Maria damage in Puerto Rico
Sheryl Chapman / Shutterstock.com
  • Date: September 2017
  • Estimated cost (2020 dollars): $94.5 billion
  • Estimated cost (actual dollars): $90 billion
  • Number of deaths: 2,981
  • Most impacted area: Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands

Another one of 2017’s major hurricanes, Hurricane Maria brought catastrophic damage to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

With the region still suffering from the effects of Hurricane Irma from two weeks prior, Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico as a powerful Category 4 storm.

Storm surge, heavy rains, and high winds leveled neighborhoods and destroyed much of Puerto Rico’s power grid, causing $90 billion in damage and nearly 3,000 deaths.

2. Hurricane Harvey

storm
AMFPhotography / Shutterstock.com
  • Date: August 2017
  • Estimated cost (2020 dollars): $131.3 billion
  • Estimated cost (actual dollars): $125 billion
  • Number of deaths: 89
  • Most impacted area: Texas

The costliest of the storms from the catastrophic 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, Hurricane Harvey also holds the distinction of being the wettest tropical cyclone on record.

Harvey made landfall in Texas as a Category 4 hurricane, but it was the storm’s prolonged stall over Houston and the Gulf Coast that made Harvey so expensive.

Over several days, Harvey dropped more than 5 feet of rain in some locations, causing floods that produced $125 billion in damage.

1. Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina flooding damage
Stratos Brilakis / Shutterstock.com
  • Date: August 2005
  • Estimated cost (2020 dollars): $170 billion
  • Estimated cost (actual dollars): $125 billion
  • Number of deaths: 1,833
  • Most impacted area: Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama

Hurricane Katrina is perhaps remembered more for the infamously mismanaged government response than for the damage of the storm itself, but Katrina brought widespread devastation to the Gulf Coast. After reaching Category 5 strength in the Gulf of Mexico, Katrina eventually made landfall in Louisiana as a Category 3. Storm surge and heavy rains led to catastrophic failures in New Orleans’ flood protection infrastructure, leaving most of the city underwater for weeks. At $170 billion in 2020 dollars, Katrina remains the most expensive climate disaster in U.S. history.

Methodology and detailed findings

A man studies financial data at his computer
NicoElNino / Shutterstock.com

To determine which climate disasters were the worst in U.S. history, researchers analyzed data from the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information’s (NCEI) U.S. Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters (2021) report. Weather events were ranked according to their CPI-adjusted estimated cost (adjusted to 2020 dollars).

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Power Outages?

Workers repairing an electrical line during a power outage
Photo by ND700 / Shutterstock.com

Losing electrical power in your home is more than inconvenient and potentially hazardous; it can also lead to serious expenses. Fortunately, some of those are probably covered by your homeowners insurance.

That could be good news to more than 3.5 million Americans who are currently without power due to storms in Texas, Oregon, Kentucky and elsewhere. But whether all of your out-of-pocket costs will be covered depends on the insurer and your policy.

Already, there are reports of homeowners in affected states contacting their insurance company, only to find they aren’t covered in ways they expected or hoped.

Here’s what to expect in coverage for two common financial impacts of a power outage, and some options to make up the difference if you aren’t actually covered. Consider this a rough guide to prepare you; if you’re directly affected, check with your insurance company for the details of your own coverage.

Frozen pipes

Prolonged winter power outages — like the current ones, which have already lasted for days — come with the added risk that water will freeze inside the home’s pipes. That can cause the pipes to crack, and lead to flooding damage and plumbing bills once the heat returns and the water begins to flow again.

It doesn’t take long for such freezing to occur. According to Hope Plumbing in Indianapolis, pipes may freeze if the outside temperature is below 20 degrees for at least six consecutive hours, as it has been during recent days in many of the states with outages.

The process is faster still if you live in a geographical location that usually does not suffer from cold winters, Hope Plumbing writes, since your water pipes are less likely to have much insulation to protect them from extreme temperatures.

Here, homeowners in Texas and elsewhere are probably covered, according to property insurance lawyers VossLaw.

“If your pipes froze because of an unusual cold snap,” causing water damage, your claim will likely be approved,” the company writes. They do, however, add a few caveats. Your claim may be denied, the lawyers warn, if your pipes were in poor condition due to age. “If a pipe burst simply because it was worn out, you may be out of luck.”

Negligence on your part could also be a reason to deny a claim, VossLaw warns, mentioning as an example shutting off the power when leaving your home, causing its interior temperatures to drop.

Less clear is whether a failure to leave water running at a trickle through the pipe in a cold house — a step that reduces the chance of frozen pipes — might be deemed negligent. At any rate, this step is recommended by home experts as a way to mitigate the disruption and inconvenience of pipes freezing.

Ruined food

While food spoiling (or at least thawing) in a warm refrigerator is most associated with power outages in warmer months, it’s possible in any season, especially when outages are prolonged.

Homeowners policies usually cover reimbursement for food losses due to an outage in their standard coverage, according to the Insurance Information Institute — although some companies instead make it an extra-cost add-on to the policy.

However, it’s unlikely that claiming the value of ruined food is worthwhile, especially if it’s the only financial loss you incurred from the power going out.

For starters, many insurers cap the covered loss at $250 or $500, according to Allstate. That figure is likely at or below the deductible for your policy, which means you could collect little or nothing on the claim.

If you suffered other financial setbacks from the outage, such as the cost to replace cracked pipes, a potential claim might exceed your deductible. And if you already made a claim on the policy within the last year, your deductible has likely already been paid regardless.

In any case, talk with your insurers before submitting a claim, especially one that is fairly modest. Insurers keep track of claims, and you’ll need to consider the possible effect of one for a power outage on your future premiums.

You might also want to check with your electricity provider. While most electric companies do not offer their customers reimbursement for food spoilage caused by long-term power outages, according to the Insurance Information Institute, programs are sometimes offered. (For example, Con Edison allowed reimbursements of up to $500 per homeowner for spoiled food after Hurricane Isaias last year.)

It’s unclear if any such programs have yet been launched due to the current outages in the South. For what it’s worth, none were implemented in areas of Louisiana and Texas affected by Hurricane Laura last year, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

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Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

Redfin joins Realtor.com in displaying flood data

When Realtor.com became the first listing platform to display flood hazard data on properties, the lead economist for Redfin expressed caution about the unintended consequences of displaying such statistics.

“We need to be very careful about how we provide information,” Taylor Marr, the lead economist at Redfin, told NPR at the time. “Could this actually reduce the value of this existing homeowner and essentially take away a lot of their net worth?”

Evidently, Redfin feels like the consumer benefit of knowing the flood risk outweighs that concern. The Seattle-based real estate brokerage and listings platform will be publishing flood risk information on nearly every home on its listing platform, it announced on Tuesday.

Like Realtor.com, Redfin will be publishing data compiled by First Street Foundation, a science and technology nonprofit organization that quantifies flood risk through Flood Factor.

“Buying a home is the biggest purchase most people will make in their lifetime,” Redfin Chief Product Officer Christian Taubman said in a statement. “By publishing the Flood Factor score, we’re making it easier to understand the risk each home faces of being damaged by flooding, meaning everyone can make better-informed decisions about buying and selling. Most homebuyers and sellers say that the frequency or intensity of natural disasters factors into their decision about where and whether to buy or sell a home, so this is information they can really use.”

First Street’s model accounts for flood risk from four primary flood events, including heavy rainfall, storm surge, tidal and riverine sources. The organization says it also factors in potential climate change impacts. It provides a climate-adjusted assessment of current risk through the course of a 30-year mortgage.

First Street’s models areas not currently mapped by FEMA, the public source that determines payouts for those applying for aid through the National Flood Insurance Program.

Disclosure of flood risk for homes that are outside the official floodplain is important information for prospective buyers: about one-third of federal disaster money paid out to flood survivors is distributed to people who live outside the designated FEMA zones.

The flood scores are active across 94 million listings on Redfin.

Source: housingwire.com