No Welcome Mat for Burglars—Try These Simple Home Security Tips


While you want your home to be welcoming to your family and friends, you also want it to be unattractive to burglars. A few simple home security measures can decrease the chance that your home will be broken into.

Burglars target homes that look like they’ll be easy to get in and out of quickly without being seen. If it takes a thief more than four or five minutes to break in, he’s likely to move on. In fact, “Time, sound, and visibility” are the three main factors you need to keep in mind when securing your home, according to


Make it hard for a burglar to enter your home. Locks, doors, and windows are your first line of defense against intruders. To help keep a thief from kicking in a door, make sure all exterior doors are solid hardwood or metal, and that your locks are grade 1 or grade 2 deadbolts. Security experts also recommend installing a heavy-duty strike plate—the metal plate attached to the doorjamb that the bolt extends into—with three-inch screws that will penetrate to the doorframe stud.

If you have a sliding glass door, place a wooden dowel, stick, or safety bar in the interior track, or add a floor bolt.

Also be sure you close and lock every door and window when you leave home, even if it’s just for a few minutes.


Burglars don’t want any attention drawn to their presence, so if you have a dog that barks when a stranger is around, you already have one method of deterring intruders. If you don’t have a dog, or the family pet is likely to welcome a burglar as a long-lost friend, you may want to invest in an alarm system. Be sure to display the alarm company’s sign and decals to notify thieves of the presence of an alarm.

(Before you invest in a home security system, call your Lakewood Financial agent at 941-747-4600 about what features your system needs to qualify for a discount on your homeowners insurance.)


Trim or remove plants or shrubs that offer a place for a criminal to hide. If you have a two-story home, make sure no tree limbs offer a way for a burglar to break into an upstairs window.

Make sure all entries to your home have good lighting, and consider installing motion-activated lights to illuminate the perimeter of your home.

Don’t leave easily stolen items like bikes or even that expensive grill out in the yard or driveway. And if you’ve recently bought a pricey new item, be discreet about how you dispose of the packaging. If a thief sees the box from a new big screen TV in your trash, he might decide to pay you a visit!

A few more tips

  • Keep your garage door closed unless you’re in the garage or nearby where you can keep an eye on it.
  • Don’t hide a spare house key outside your home. Leave one with a trusted neighbor, or invest in a combination lock box you can put in an out-of-the-way place.
  • If you park on the street or in your driveway, take all valuables inside with you, and lock the doors and roll up the windows. Don’t forget to take your garage door opener inside!
  • Get to know your neighbors. Even if you don’t participate in an official neighborhood watch program, you can still watch out for each other on an informal basis.
  • Walk around the outside of your home looking for possible modes of entry for a thief. Is that window always open a little bit? Does that door look like it could be easily forced? Think like a burglar—then take the home security measures to keep him out!

If you have any questions about your homeowners insurance, be sure to give us a call or contact us via email.




Tips for First-time Home Buyers

first-time home buyers

Thinking of buying your first home?  Buying a home is a big investment, so you want to make sure you understand the process and you’re ready to take the plunge before joining the mass of first-time home buyers.Doing your homework before starting to look for your dream home is one way to make sure you make a good decision rather than one entirely based on emotion.

Here are some tips to make your home-buying experience more enjoyable and less stressful:

Get pre-qualified for a loan before you begin house hunting—but carefully consider how much you actually want to spend for your mortgage each month. How do you know how much house you can afford? When figuring costs per month for your new home, remember you’ll be responsible for more than just a mortgage. Consider property taxes, homeowners insurance, homeowners association dues, maintenance, and possibly higher utilities.

Also take a hard look at your finances and consider your personal goals and the lifestyle you want to maintain. Do you want to travel? Have children? Pursue hobbies? Make sure you’ll still have the discretionary income to do those things after you buy your home.

Hire a buyer’s agent to protect your interests. Ask family and friends for recommendations to find a reputable agent. He or she should take the time to answer your questions, and help you understand the process of buying a home, as well as represent you in negotiations for your new home. If you can find an agent that specializes in first-time home buyers

Don’t rush. Take time to research the real estate market in your desired area. Make a list of features you want and features that are deal-breakers. Be sure to communicate these to your agent so you don’t waste time looking at unsuitable properties.

Don’t spend all your savings on the down payment. There may be unexpected expenses once you close on your home, or you may want or need to make some changes or improvements to it. Also, now more than ever, you’ll need to keep funds on hand for emergencies.

Shop around for homeowners insurance. You can start with the company that carries your car insurance, but don’t stop there. They might not have the most competitive rate for you. Get several quotes, and be sure that each quote contains the same coverage types and limits. We recommend that you carry replacement cost coverage. (At Lakewood Financial, we represent multiple homeowners companies, and we’d love the chance to give you a free, no-obligation quote on homeowners insurance.)

Be realistic in your expectations. Your new home doesn’t have to be perfect, but you should be aware of what repairs or cosmetic changes you’ll want to make. Be sure to have a home inspection so you’ll know what you’re getting yourself into.

Buying that first home can be one of the most exciting milestones in your life. Once you’ve found your dream home, be sure to protect your investment with the appropriate homeowners insurance coverage. We are independent agents with multiple homeowners insurance companies to choose from, as well as the expertise to find you the most cost effective policy while still insuring your home and its contents for the proper value. Call us at 941-747-4600, or contact us for a homeowners insurance quote. 

Insuring Your Pricey Presents

Insuring Your Pricey Presents

When all the wrapping paper has been thrown away, and you bask in the glow of another happy holiday, the last thing you want to think about is whether or not your new gifts are covered by your insurance. We get it. But if Santa’s been extra good to you this year, you may want to put down that eggnog and check to see that you’d be covered if your new goodies were lost, stolen, or destroyed.

Even if you didn’t find a new car with a bow on top in your driveway on Christmas morning, you still might need to think about insuring your pricey presents. For instance:


Jewelry is covered under the contents portion of your homeowners or renters insurance policy, but only up to a certain limit (often $1,500). Items such as engagement rings, high-end watches, and tennis bracelets may go over your policy’s limits, leaving them unprotected. If so, you’ll need to raise your limits, or buy a special “rider” or “floater” policy to cover your new bling. Talk to your Lakewood Financial agent about appropriate coverage, and what steps you’ll need to take to get it.

Stereo/flat-screen TV/computer

These items will likely be covered under the contents portion of your homeowners or renters policy, but you should review your policy to see if your limits are adequate for all your personal property, including your new gifts.


If you receive a piece of fine art as a gift, you will likely need specialized fine art insurance. Most standard homeowners policies won’t provide enough coverage for high-value art.

Also remember to:

Make sure you keep receipts if you have them, and add your new property to your home inventory list.

Double check the type of coverage you carry, i.e., replacement cost or actual cash value.  “Replacement cost” covers the amount you would need to replace the item with a new, similar item, and actual cash value will cover the cost of replacing the item minus depreciation for that item. We almost always recommend replacement cost coverage.

Don’t assume your pricey presents are covered. Review your policy, or give your Lakewood Financial agent a call at 941-747-4600 (or contact us) to be sure your holiday gifts are protected.

Loss of Use Benefits Explained

loss of use

 If a disaster such as a hurricane, tornado, or fire strikes your home, you may find it temporarily uninhabitable, or even destroyed. Imagine if you have to live someplace else while your home is being repaired—how will you pay for the extra living expenses? Many homeowners insurance policies contain coverage to help you pay for those additional expenses. It’s called “Loss of Use,” “Part D,” or “Additional Living Expenses” coverage. Not all policies include it, but many do.

Here are the three types of coverage that make up Loss of Use:

Additional living expense—reasonable expenses you incur to maintain your family’s standard of living if you must live elsewhere while your home is being repaired. These expenses include things like rent or hotel bills, restaurant or grocery bills above and beyond what you’d normally spend, laundry bills, parking fees, or the cost of storing your belongings while your home is being repaired.

Fair rental value—if you own a tenant-occupied home or rental property and the covered loss makes the rental premises uninhabitable, the insurer will cover the lost rental income. Expenses which will not continue, such as what a tenant pays for utilities, will be subtracted from that reimbursement.

Prohibited use—if you must stay elsewhere when a civil authority, such as a government agency or the state police, prohibits you from accessing your home in a damaged neighborhood, even if your own home is unharmed.

Things to remember:

  • Loss of Use is only payable if the damage was caused by an insured peril. This does NOT include flood, which is normally excluded on a standard homeowners insurance policy. Federal flood insurance also excludes additional living expense coverage, but some private flood markets are starting to provide some Loss of Use coverage in their policies.
  • Most policies cap the amount of Loss of Use coverage, often at a percentage of the limit of insurance carried on the dwelling.
  • No deductible applies to Loss of Use coverage.
  • Loss of Use extends beyond the policy term limits if the covered loss occurs before the policy’s expiration date.

Loss of Use can be an important coverage to have if you’re ever faced with a serious homeowners claim. Since coverage terms vary, you may want to discuss with your Lakewood Financial agent whether or not your homeowners insurance coverage is appropriate for your situation. Please call us at 941-747-4600, or contact us if you have any questions. 

Preparing Your Home Before Vacation

There’s still time to sneak in a summer vacation before the kids go back to school. Before you go, there are a few things you should do towards preparing your home while you’re gone, and ease your reentry when you return.

preparing your home

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Make it hard for burglars to get in

  • Install a motion-sensitive exterior light.
  • Park your car inside your garage. If you can’t, be sure to remove any valuables and the garage door opener from your vehicle.
  • Make sure all doors and windows are locked, including pet doors. Don’t forget the door between the garage and the house.
  • Disconnect the garage door opener receiver, or manually lock the door.

Safeguard your home

  • Florida experiences a lot of storms and lightning strikes, so unplug electronics, WiFi routers, printers, and computers to keep them safe from power surges. (This will also save you on your electric bill, because some electronics keep drawing power even when they’re turned off.)
  • Turn off the water main.
  • Turn off your water heater (if you’ve turned off the water main), or turn the temperature down.
  • Raise the temperature on the thermostat instead of turning off your air conditioning to protect your home and belongings from Florida’s high heat and humidity.
  • Avoid any unpleasantly smelly surprises by throwing away any food that might go bad before you return, and make sure you take out the kitchen trash before you go.

Don’t advertise the fact that you’re not home

  • Stop newspaper delivery and put a hold on your mail.
  • Wait to post your travel plans and experiences on social media until you return from your trip.
  • Don’t leave an outgoing voice message on your answering machine saying you’re out of town.
  • Help your home look lived-in by connecting interiors lights to a timer, and set them to come on at different times.
  • Hire someone or ask a friend or trusted neighbor to take care of your yard—mow the grass, water if necessary, and generally keep an eye on things. A big tree limb down in your driveway for several days is a major clue that no one’s home!
  • Consider hiring a house sitter to watch over everything while you’re gone, especially if you have pets. There’s something about knowing there is someone at home, and your pets will really appreciate being able to stay in their own environment.
  • If you don’t want or need a house sitter, leave emergency contact information with a neighbor.
  • Let your home security company know you’ll be out of town, and give them the names and contact information of your house sitter or a neighbor who has agreed to keep an eye on your house.
  • Ask a neighbor to park in your driveway a couple of times so your home doesn’t look deserted.

Enjoy your vacation, safe in knowing your homeowners insurance is on the job protecting your assets, and that you’ve done all you can to keep your home safe while you’re away.  And please give us a call at 971-747-4600 if you have any questions about your homeowners insurance, or you need a free, no-obligation quote.



How Your Homeowners Insurance Keeps Working, Even When You’re on Vacation

homeowners insuranceWhile you’re making plans for a summer vacation, packing up the kids, and making arrangements for the dog, the last thing on your mind might be your homeowners insurance. You can rest assured that even though you’re on vacation, your homeowners insurance is still working for you back home. Here’s how:

It protects your personal belongings. Under Coverage C, your homeowners policy protects your personal belongings up to the policy’s limits (usually 50-70% of the insured value of your dwelling), less your deductible. If the contents of your home were to be damaged or stolen while you’re gone, you’d be covered—but did you know the personal property you bring with you on vacation is also covered? That means things like your luggage, your laptop, your golf clubs—if these items were lost or stolen while you’re on vacation, they would also be covered, again less your deductible. Note: some companies reduce off-premises coverage to a percentage of the total coverage for personal possessions, so you may want to check with your Lakewood Financial agent if you have concerns about this.

It protects your liability. Even if you’re not home, if someone is injured on your property, the liability protection in your homeowners policy will cover you. Let’s say a friend is acting as house sitter for you while you’re away, and he or she falls and is injured. Your liability would cover this.

Or maybe you have a pool in your back yard, and some neighborhood kids decide to use it while you’re gone. Even if you’re not there and haven’t given them permission to use your pool, you could still be liable for any injuries.

(If you have someone staying in your home, or if you have a pool or a trampoline, you may need the additional liability protection of an umbrella policy.)

Your homeowners liability also covers you if you if you unintentionally hurt someone while you’re on vacation (for example, if you slice a golf ball into a fellow golfer!).

And, of course, it protects your home itself. Break-ins, vandalism, storm damage, fire—all the usual covered perils will continue to be covered while you are away.  

(One thing to be aware of: standard homeowners policies do not cover floods. Since Florida is essentially one big flood zone, talk to your Lakewood Financial agent about buying a flood policy—they’re more affordable than ever.)

It’s good to know your homeowners insurance is still working for you, even while you’re on vacation. Policy limits, exclusions, and deductibles still apply, so you should consult with your Lakewood Financial agent to make sure you’re carrying the appropriate coverages and limits to protect your assets. Please contact or call us at 941-747-4600 if you’d like a homeowners insurance quote, or if you have questions about what your policy covers.

Five Things to Do Now to Prepare for Hurricane Season

Hurricane SeasonThe start of the 2017 hurricane season is just 10 days away. Are you ready? If you’ve lived in Florida for any length of time, you know how much havoc a storm can cause. Better to spend an hour or two now to save a lot of stress and worry when a storm is bearing down on you.

Here are five things to do NOW to prepare before a hurricane blows your way:

  • Inspect your home and yard. Now is the time to make any necessary repairs to your roof (if you replace your roof, be sure to get a wind mitigation report—it could save you money on your homeowners insurance), cut down dead tree limbs, or buy any necessary storm shutters, plywood, or braces for your garage door. Also make note of any lawn furniture, children’s play equipment, or potted plants that might need to be moved so a hurricane’s high winds don’t turn them into flying hazard.
  • Check evacuation and flood zones (they aren’t the same). If you live in an evacuation zone, familiarize yourself with the route, and make plans now for where you’ll go. If you don’t have to evacuate, consider offering friends or family who must evacuate a place to stay. Tip: Keep your vehicles gassed up during hurricane season, just in case you need to get out of town quickly.
  • Create or update your Disaster Supply Kit. Make sure you have plenty of medicines, food, water, batteries, pet supplies, and other crucial items on hand. Include a portable NOAA radio, and if you have a landline, a corded phone (portable cordless phones won’t work if there’s a power outage). Click here for a full description of what your Disaster Supply Kit should contain, or visit Manatee County’s Hurricane Readiness Center (see link below) for more information.
  • Collect copies of important documents, such as driver’s licenses, and insurance policies, and make sure you have your insurance agent’s contact information.   Take pictures of your home and belongings if you haven’t already done a full home inventory, and store those pictures someplace that won’t be affected by the storm, either online or with a friend or family member outside of Florida.
  • Review your insurance policies. What is your hurricane deductible? Do you have flood insurance? Standard homeowners policies do not come with flood coverage, but flood insurance is more affordable than ever, so you might want to look into buying it. 

Don’t let a hurricane catch you unprepared. Take time now to prepare your home and your family for any coming storms. And remember, Lakewood Financial is here to help you. Please contact us or call us 941-747-4600 if you have any questions about hurricane or flood coverage.

For more information, please visit:

 Manatee County Emergency Management

Printable disaster kit checklists

Improving Your Home? Don’t Forget to Upgrade Your Insurance

Upgrade Your Insurance

Spring weather has many of us thinking about home and landscape improvements. But It’s a perfect time of year to spruce up our surroundings, and prepare for the coming heat, humidity, and summer storms.If you’re planning renovations or landscaping projects this spring, consider what effect these projects might have on your homeowners insurance and liability. Some projects can make your home safer (thus reducing the chance you’ll have to make a claim on your insurance), some projects will increase the value of your home (so your current homeowners policy might not be adequate), and some projects might even save you money on your insurance. Whichever the case whenever you make any major homestead changes you may forget to upgrade your insurance

Here are five common home improvement projects and how they can affect your insurance coverage:

Tree trimming

Trimming trees not only improves their health and appearance, it can also make your home and yard safer. Proper trimming ensures that dead limbs can’t fall on your car, or be blown into your yard by high winds. You can also protect your roof and pool enclosure by having overhanging limbs cut back. This reduces the likelihood that your home or car—or a guest’s car—will be damaged by falling tree limbs.

Planting trees or shrubs

Before planting anything with invasive roots, find out where your water, sewer or septic lines run. Most homeowners insurance policies don’t contain coverage for water or sewer back-up damage—damage that might be caused by roots that grow into your water, sewer, or septic lines. One way to find out where those lines are is to “call before you dig”.

Roof replacement

Even though it can be an expensive home improvement, having your roof replaced can offer you peace of mind, increase the value of your home, and save you money on your homeowners insurance. (See “A Wind Mitigation Report Can Lower Your Homeowners Insurance Premium” for more information.)

Adding a pool

Having a pool in Florida is almost a must—but it can leave you open to liability claims if someone is hurt while playing in or around your pool. You may want to consider adding an umbrella policy to boost your liability protection. Also, remember to increase the amount of your homeowners coverage to include the value of that new pool. And think twice about adding a slide or a diving board. Most homeowners policies exclude exposure to slides or diving boards. Some only provide $25,000 worth of coverage, and others won’t write your policy at all if you have a slide or diving board.

Significant kitchen or bath upgrades

Installing granite or marble countertops, custom cabinetry, or professional-grade appliances? You may want to upgrade your homeowners insurance coverage at the same time, to be sure you’d receive the increased value should you have to make a claim. If your renovations involve rewiring, you may also be eligible for discounts on your policy.  If the remodeling is extensive, you may need to buy a builder’s risk policy.


It’s a great time of year to spruce up your home. Please call us at 941-747-4600 with any questions you have about how your proposed home or landscaping projects might affect your insurance. Happy home improvement!

When Words Can Get You Sued: Protect Yourself From Personal Injury Lawsuits


Personal Injury Lawsuit

A few hasty words can cost you—especially if those words are in writing. Many people, especially children and teenagers, don’t realize that posting something negative and potentially damaging about a person, business, or organization can leave them open to a personal injury lawsuit.

Think before you post

Until the advent of social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, the average person was unlikely to be sued for libel or slander. (Libel is a written defamatory statement; slander is a spoken one.)  All that has changed due to the hyperconnectedness of modern life. Heated online exchanges, cyberbullying, and other forms of negative written expression can get you sued for personal injury.

You say you don’t engage in those types of interactions? What about your kids? Parents are being held liable in court for their children’s social media posts.

Situations that seem innocent enough can still leave you open to a lawsuit. Social media posts a child may consider teasing might be construed as bullying and result in a lawsuit. So can starting a rumor that hurts someone’s reputation, sharing false information, writing a letter to the editor critical of a specific teacher’s performance, and even posting a harsh comment on the message board of your homeowners association.

The personal injury endorsement

Standard homeowners policies do not cover non-bodily injury. One way to protect your assets if you are sued for personal injury is to buy an umbrella policy. A second, less expensive option is to add a personal injury endorsement to your homeowners policy. If you have a lot of assets to protect, you may want to do both.

A personal injury endorsement will protect you and your family up to the limits of your policy if you’re sued for libel or slander. It also typically covers attorney and court costs incurred in defending yourself in a personal injury lawsuit, as well as situations such as false arrest, wrongful eviction or entry, and invasion or violation of privacy.

Of course, even if you have a personal injury endorsement, there is no coverage for intentional libelous or slanderous acts. You should still use common sense, and you should teach your kids appropriate online behavior. Understand, and help them to see, that words can be damaging, and they have consequences.

At Lakewood Financial, we will be happy to help you review your insurance coverage, and assess your need for a personal injury endorsement. Please contact us at 941-747-4600 if there’s any way we can serve your insurance needs. 

Insuring the High Value Home: Are You Underinsured?

home value

We often talk about homes being our clients’ most valuable assets, and advise them to make sure their homeowners insurance is adequate to rebuild the home and fully replace the contents if the home were to be severely damaged or destroyed. For some clients who own higher value homes, this is even more crucial. A standard homeowners policy may not provide enough coverage.

Are you underinsured?

Here are some special areas of concern for owners of homes valued at $500,000 and up:

Replacement cost of structure. If your home is destroyed, what would it cost to rebuild it? High value homes often have costly custom features, and the replacement cost coverage should reflect that.

High value homes often have other structures on the property which are not attached to the home, such as guest homes, gazebos, outdoor kitchens, or boat docks. You’ll want to talk to your agent about coverage for these structures.

Contents coverage. Much of your investment in your home is not just the structure itself, but also in your furnishings, valuables, or special collections. Coverage for personal property is typically 50 percent of the value for which the home is insured. Conduct a home inventory to determine the value of your belongings, and discuss with your agent whether you should increase your contents coverage.

In addition, you’ll want to be sure expensive items or collections—such as furs, jewelry, art, firearms, Persian rugs, or vintage wines—are covered up to their true value. This is especially true of items that may appreciate in value. Most standard homeowners insurance policies cap value for items like this.

Liability. If you have an expensive home, you probably also have other assets you’ll want to protect. Homeowners insurance policy liability limits usually start around $100,000, but recommended coverage is higher—at least $300,000 to $500,000.  If you want more coverage, it’s wise to buy an umbrella or excess liability policy. You’ll receive broader coverage as well as higher liability limits.

Higher coverage, higher cost?

If you’re concerned about the price of higher coverages, you can save money by going with a higher deductible ($2,500 all the way to $10,000 rather than $1,000, for example). Owners of high value homes can usually afford a higher deductible if they have a claim.

At Lakewood Financial, we’ve been serving homeowners with high value homes for 14 years, and we understand their needs. We are independent agents with multiple homeowners insurance companies to choose from, as well as the expertise to find you the most cost effective policy while still insuring your home and its contents for the proper value. Contact us today for your free, no-obligation quote.