Home Inventory: From Insurance to Insulation

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Mrs. Fuchs: Well, it’s the New Year and we already reviewed our financial mistakes of 2009, which can only mean it’s time to clean house, so to speak.  I think we should look at all the ways our house costs us money and see what we can do about it to make for a less costly 2010. Maybe we’ll find some places to save hidden away in the old plaster walls of this place.  We also want to make sure we’re covered if disaster strikes.

Mr. Fuchs: So we’re going to use the occasion of history’s odometer flipping over as an excuse to take inventory of our home: from insulation to insurance. 

Mrs. Fuchs: Yup.  It’ll take a few phone calls and going over some of those annoying policies, but I’ll bet it is worth it.

Mr. Fuchs: It kills me to agree with you so readily, Hon, but Michael Lombardi, who lives in New York, makes a budget list each New Year’s Day of items he needs to fix in his home that year and a corresponding budget.  We should do the same.  He is flexible about the items that need fixing—if a ceiling caves in, for example, he adjusts his list—but he tries to stick to the budget.

Mrs. Fuchs: So if a sofa, for example, suddenly seems all wrong for a room……

Mr. Fuchs: I can see right away that you’ll have no authorization to edit the list. 

Mrs. Fuchs: Another good place to start may be a home energy assessment.  We had one a few weeks ago and found so many leaks that that old cliché – throwing money out the windows actually turned out to be true – although we’re technically throwing our currency through the cracks around the windows and baseboards, not to mention the attic.  The assessments cost a few hundred dollars, and you can usually get the cost put toward any work you have done.  At that point, a little caulk and some insulation (state and federal tax credits may be available in the coming year) should lead to significantly lower energy bills in winter and—surprise—summer, as the insulation and caulk also serves to contain conditioned air. 

Mrs. Fuchs: Another potential place to save is your appliances.   Refrigerators, washers, and air conditioners may be costing you too much if they are older than 6 years old.  Don’t wait to long past New Year’s Day to check each one. 


Mr. Fuchs: We should also eyeball our home insurance to make certain that the replacement value of our home is sufficient.  Many people let years pass without checking and the replacement value of their home remains what it was when they bought the home—20 years ago.  If, in the event of a fire, you try to replace your home at ancient prices, have fun living in a yurt.  Separately, New Year’s is a good time to shop around for new insurance.  If you get a better deal, you can either switch or use the competing rate to coax your insurer into lowering their fee. 

Mrs. Fuchs: You know, I was reading Suze Orman’s column in O, the Oprah Magazine  and—

Mr. Fuchs: Why do you have to read her?  Why can’t you just trust me?

Mrs. Fuchs: I trust you.  But I verify with Suze. Anyhow, she suggests challenging your property-tax assessment – something we do not want to do, because our property taxes are comparatively low.  But if your assessment is based on the go go years of real estate, you may be paying too much.  Calling your tax assessor is the place to start.  They should be able to explain the process.

Mr. Fuchs and Mrs. Fuchs: Most of all, our best wishes for a happy, healthy and affordable New Year.

 

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