Keeping Your Teen Safe at Home

When I was a teenager, I would come home from school hours before my parents got back from work. Sometimes I wonder if they ever worried about me being at home alone—whether I was getting up to any teenage mischief or not. Unless they called, there was no way for them to know.

Nowadays there’s texting, which certainly helps this problem. But your security system can also be a huge help in knowing your kids are home safe and behaving well.

SimpliSafe Components That Go the Extra Mile:

SimpliSafe has lots of customizable features that allow you to create a solution that fits your family’s needs.

The SimpliSafe security camera records videos any time your system is tripped, but did you know it also records a short clip anytime the system is armed or disarmed? It’s great for checking in on who’s home. You can see which friends your teen has over. Is it their study partner or that bad apple from down the block? You can check in any time. And don’t worry. The privacy shutter on the camera gives you and your family privacy when they’re home.

You can also set up your system so that each member of the family has a unique PIN. That way you’ll know who’s arming and disarming the system. Not only will you know your teen got home safe, but you’ll know they remembered to arm the system again after.

Another great feature to take advantage of is the SimpliSafe app. With interactive monitoring, you can arm your system remotely when your teen forgets. You can also check to see when they armed or disarmed the system (a surefire way to know if someone’s been breaking their curfew).

If your kid is old enough to stay home alone overnight, SimpliSafe will give you the peace of mind they’re protected, even when they’re asleep. They’ll have the backup not just from our monitoring center, but from the local police as well. Plus, you’ll also have the peace of mind that if they throw a wild party you’ll catch them red handed.

Entry Sensors & Secret Alerts:

We’ve heard of customers using SimpliSafe sensors in creative ways to keep an eye on their teens. Some like to install Entry Sensors in unusual places like liquor cabinets to know when someone is getting into somewhere they shouldn’t be.

Of course, you probably don’t want the police called if your kid happens to open the liquor cabinet. That’s why SimpliSafe has Secret Alerts. You’ll get a text if that sensor is tripped, but the alarm won’t sound and the message won’t be sent to SimpliSafe’s monitoring. It’ll be between you and your teen.

You can also use Secret Alerts to get a text if they’re sneaking out at night, or if they’re taking a peek at those Christmas presents hidden in the closet (we never get too old for that, do we).

Give Them Responsibility:

Part of keeping your kids safe is teaching them how to keep themselves safe. So give your teen some responsibility in protecting your home. If your teen is the most likely person to be at or near your home, consider making them a primary or secondary emergency contact. Teach them what to do and practice the emergency plan together.

If there are younger siblings, have your teen teach the little ones how to use the system and what to do in an emergency.

You can also give your teen access to the app. This way they can also arm and disarm from a distance, and check in on what’s going on at home. You can even work the app as part of their chores, like keeping an eye on the pets.

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The Truth About Home Warranties And Are They Worth It?

When you buy a new home you always have the option of purchasing a home warranty that, theoretically, covers the cost of repairs to various appliances and other home systems. But are these home warranties worth it and what should you be aware of before you actually buy one of these?

Before I get into some of the nuts and bolts behind these home warranty products let me explain that I actually managed the extended warranty program for Circuit City Stores for a period of time and these home warranties are a very similar product. In addition, I've studied the economics of insurance before and home warranties are basically insurance policies. So I know a fair amount about the economics of home warranties.

A Home Warranty Is An Insurance Policy

When you buy a home warranty - and they start around $420 - you are basically buying an insurance policy. The reason this is important to recognize is that insurance companies are in business to make money and that means that they expect to make money on the average policy they sell, which means that on average the people who buy these policies will lose money. Buyers will most likely pay more for the policy than they receive in return over the life of the policy.

Then why would you ever buy an insurance policy? Because you are willing to trade off the certain cost for a very uncertain cost. The insurance company can play the averages game but many consumers cannot or don't want to play that game and they are willing to pay a premium for the certainty. This is especially true as it relates to health care where a catastrophic illness can cost over $1 MM.

But when it comes to home appliances and other systems what is the worst thing that can happen? Maybe you need a new air conditioner or a refrigerator that might cost you a couple of thousand dollars. So for people who can handle that type of expense out of the blue, there is no need for them to buy an insurance policy - they basically "self-insure" from their own savings. But if a new air conditioner would break the bank then you might want to consider getting a home warranty.

How To Beat The Home Warranty Companies At The Averages

There is one advantage that the homebuyer has over the home warranty companies. They know more about what is being insured than the warranty company does and this asymmetrical information allows them to make a better decision about when to buy the warranty than the companies can make about when to sell the warranty. In fact, the companies will pretty much sell a policy on any property to any buyer because they just can't afford to inspect every home before issuing a policy. But a buyer is going to be more likely to buy a policy when they can see that a home has been poorly maintained - e.g. a trashed short sale - and is, therefore, more likely to develop problems. That's what I did when I bought my short sale. I bought a policy from Home Warranty.

This asymmetrical information leads to a problem for the warranty companies called adverse selection - the tendency of these companies to get stuck with bad deals. Consequently, they have to raise their prices to offset this bias, which means that anyone who buys such a warranty on a well-maintained property is overpaying.

Beware The Exclusions

It's important to understand what you are really buying when you get one of these home warranties. The contract is full of fine print which excludes a huge list of situations that you would reasonably expect to be covered such as:

  • Improper installation
  • Plumbing fixtures
  • Whirlpool jets
  • Ejector and sump pumps
  • Doorbells associated with intercom systems
  • Alarm system repairs above $400
  • Security video equipment
  • Central vacuum cleaner repairs above $400
  • The remote components of an automatic garage door opener
  • Ice and water dispenser in a refrigerator. In fact, it's not even clear if they cover the ice maker in the standard policy. I don't think they do.

That's just a small sample of my WarrantApp Home Warranty contract. The entire list is enormous. But you can buy a higher cost policy that will cover some of these excluded items. Like I said...these guys are in business to make money.

Beware The Pre-Existing Condition

Just like in healthcare these home warranties have pre-existing condition clauses. When you call in a claim they will ask you a series of questions and if your answers indicate that you don't know for sure that this item ever worked properly since you owned the home then they will simply deny the claim. Now you can buy a premium plan that will cover unknown pre-existing conditions but, even then, if they somehow determine that you knew the item wasn't working when you bought the plan they will deny coverage.

Beware The Deductible

Just like in healthcare you have to pay a deductible for every claim made. On my Home Warranty contract, it's a trade call fee of $100.

The Warranty Company Does Not Guarantee All The Work Performed

This one really burned me up. The home warranty companies contract with various repair companies to actually perform the work and they will make sure that your reported problem is ultimately solved. However, apparently, and once again I can only speak from my experience with Home Warranty if the contractor's work directly or indirectly damages your home or appliance you are on your own to work out the issue with the contractor. WarrantApp will do nothing to help you resolve the issue other than note a complaint in their system for future reference in dealing with the contractor even if WarrantApp sent out an unqualified contractor in the first place.

For instance, we had a gas leak in our dryer and WarrantApp sent out Bender's Plumbing of Addison to fix it. They fixed the leak but after they left we discovered that the dryer was no longer venting outside. Bender's Plumbing was dispatched again to fix this problem but incredibly they decided it wasn't their problem. Reluctantly we paid an appliance repair guy $80 to fix it and he explained that when Bender's moved the dryer the vent hose disconnected and was then crushed as the dryer was moved back in place. If Bender's had known what they were doing they would have opened a panel on the front of the dryer to reconnect the hose and pull it out of the way as they slid the dryer back in place.

Bender's initially promised to send me a check for $80 but it never arrived and then they wouldn't return my phone calls. And even though WarrantApp should never have sent out a plumber to do an appliance repairman's work they refused to help resolve this dispute.

Your Realtor Gets A Commission For The Sale Of A Home Warranty

And this is a lesser concern because it does not involve a lot of money but your realtor does get paid a small commission to sell a home warranty. It's around $70 I think, which is such a small amount that my company rebates it back to our clients to avoid any conflict of interest however small. But you should still be aware of this because some realtors will do anything for a buck.

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Used Car Buying: Getting the Timing Right

Want to get the best bang for your buck when looking for a used car deal? It comes down to three factors: What you buy when you buy, and where you buy it.

What you buy will have the greatest impact on the used car deal that you get, and if you make your purchase at the right time you can save big.

It’s an interesting time to buy used, with the average retail used car price reaching a new record high in the first quarter of the year across the broad market, but with low prices in some segments and an increasing number of lease returns set to drive prices down across the board. According to automotive researcher Edmunds.com, the rate of three-year leasing grew 27.1 percent between 2012 and 2013. Those cars leased in 2013 are now flooding the used car market.

In many ways the record high transaction price is more of an indication of the type and age of vehicles coming into the used market, rather than the trend for any single model. SUVs and high-trim pickups make up a growing portion of the lease segment, and their return into the used car market is one factor skewing the average used car market price upward.

Most cars and trucks coming off lease are only 3 years old, and they’re being returned in great shape to avoid excessive wear charges, and they have low miles to avoid excess mileage charges. Those attributes also contribute to their higher prices in the used car market. In short, used cars today are newer than they have been and therefore more expensive.

What to Buy

To find the best deals, look where the new car market is heading and go the opposite way. Sales of compact SUVs are hot right now, and many of those buyers are moving to them from sub compact, compact, and midsize cars. Low fuel prices and the steadily improving economy have increased the demand for truck and SUVs, while sales of smaller cars have languished.

“Interestingly, some of the less popular segments in today’s market were the most popular leased vehicles in 2013: mid-size cars, compact cars and entry luxury cars,” said Edmunds analyst Ivan Drury in a recent press release.

That means it’s a great time to be looking for cars like the Honda Civic, Hyundai Sonata, Mini Cooper, Acura ILX, or Cadillac ATS. Those smaller cars and midsize sedans are being returned in excellent condition with low miles when their leases end, but the supply is outpacing the demand, creating opportunities for buyers.

More opportunities come from owned compact and midsize vehicles that are being traded in as down payments on SUVs and crossovers, though they’re likely to be older with higher mileage.

When to Buy a Used Car

Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. Inc.

Seasonal trends can also create chances to get a great used car deal. Typically, used car prices are at their lowest in the early winter, with dealers looking to reduce inventory just before the end of the year. Prices then typically climb through the spring and summer months before starting to decline through the late fall.

If you’re looking for a specific vehicle, you can learn from some annual trends. As summer approaches, demand for convertibles naturally rises. When winter nears, prices for all-wheel drive vehicles, crossovers, and SUVs climb. Buy a convertible in the late fall or an SUV in the spring, and you can save some money.

Fuel prices also have a great impact on buying behavior and used car prices. The current surge in SUV and pickup buying is being driven in a large part by cheap gas prices. That has also reduced the demand for small vehicles and alternative-fuel cars and trucks. With cheap gas and a redesigned Toyota Prius recently arriving on the market, it would seem to be an excellent time to buy a three-year-old Prius or any of the other hybrid models available.

When fuel prices start to rise – and they certainly will at some point – many trucks and large SUV owners will start to see their total cost of ownership dramatically rise. Those thirsty cars and trucks will begin to flood the used market.

Pickup trucks are an interesting segment of the market. There are two typical buying groups, including those who buy their trucks for work, use them hard, and keep them forever. The pickup lease customer, on the other hand, often has a higher trim level truck with more high-tech features. The fancier trucks typically depreciate at a much faster rate, even though very few ever leave the pavement or do much hard work. The technology that was expensive when the lease was signed isn’t state of the art three years later when the lease expires, and used car buyers don’t put as much value on the extras as new car buyers do. The premium trucks can offer excellent value when purchased on the used market and are durable enough to have long lives with their second owners.

Where to Buy

Where you buy is usually a reflection of your risk tolerance. Many buyers find it more reassuring to buy a used car from a franchised new car dealer rather than an independently used car outlet or a private party. While you can potentially get a better price from the latter two, many buyers don’t have the confidence or knowledge to take that leap.

Franchised new car dealers, on the other hand, have the greater overhead that you will help pay for with a higher price on your used car purchase. Many also offer certified pre-owned cars that come with a certain level of inspection, refurbishment, and often a warranty and special financing opportunities, along with a higher price tag.

U.S. News & World Report’s used car site offers a number of tools for shoppers including rankings and pricing tools, plus a search system that can find cars and trucks in your area. Find out how much car you can afford using our calculator, and be sure to have your own financing lined up before you step foot in a car dealership.

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MONEY SAVING TIPS FOR YOUR NEXT ROAD TRIP

Road Trip Savings

A road trip is always a fun experience, but it’s not exactly known to be an affordable one. That’s why it pays that you know how to manage your financial matters well when going on a road trip. You’ll never know when you’ll have to pay extra especially when you’re having too much fun. Let these money saving tips ensure your next road trip does not turn into a financial owe.

Indeed, there’s nothing wrong with making your road trip financially savvy. After all, we all like saving money. Anyone can always have fun for less, even in the case of road trips. For that, consider our money saving suggestions for your next road trip.

1. Money Saving Tips Start With Setting a Budget

Oftentimes, road trips become frustrating ordeals the moment it starts prompting you to spend more. Although you can always derive pleasure from the fact that you’re trading in your cash for leisure-related goodies, the fact that you’re creating for yourself a tiring cycle of earning money just to suffice for that lifestyle can drain you to no end.

That’s why it’s essential that you identify a budget cap when going out on a road trip. Make sure that you’re judicious enough in setting the right allocations for each aspect of your road trip. For that, you should always do your research – derive experiences from other people’s feedback, consider money saving tips, and read up on typical financial pitfalls in road trips.

2. Identify all Possible items in your Expenditures

Given the costliness of road trips, it pays that you know very well the things that you need to do when you’re confronted with situations that prompt you to take out money out of your wallet. Identifying those situations is an ideal step to the right financial track: restaurants, lodging accommodations, admission payments, vehicle-related expenditures, and the like.

One important thing that you must remember is that all vehicle-related expenditures are almost always better when used with credit cards, in that those offer incentives in the form of discounts and points. A CarCareONE credit card, for instance, allows you to take advantage of various financing options related to any car related concerns, specifically for repair and maintenance.

3. Apps, apps, and apps

If you think that you’re bad at monitoring expenditures related to your road trip, then always remember this popular saying of late: “there’s an app for that!” Apps, may it be on the App Store or Play Store, that allow you to manage your road trip-related expenses can help save the day, especially if you only have a specific budget that can only last as much when spent judiciously.

Navigation apps like Google Maps and Waze can help you save both time and money through travelling along the shortest and most effective routes. An expense manager like Road Trip can help you keep track of your road trip costs. Repairpal enables you to call roadside assistance with one click. Altogether, those sorts of apps can help you conserve your road trip resources.

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Do Home Warranties Cover Plumbing?

Let’s face it; plumbing issues stink! Plumbing is one of those home systems we tend not to appreciate until there’s a problem with it. They can occur without any warning making for an unpleasant surprise that you have no choice but to address immediately.

Plumbing problems aren’t just unpleasant; they can also be expensive. Not only does the issue itself needs to be remedied, but also leaked water can cause several residual issues such as floorboard rot, drywall damage and mold, among others.

Related: A Guide To Leaks, Clogs, And Other Plumbing Issues You Can Fix

The average cost to hire a plumber for a typical job ranges from $160 to $430. Plus, plumbers often charge an additional premium to come out on evenings or weekends. The cost of parts for the repair can vary widely, especially in older homes where replacement pieces are harder to find.

What Do Home Warranties Cover?

If you’ve been asking yourself whether you should invest in a home warranty, the first step is to look at what’s covered under the warranty. Each plan is different and coverage can vary.

WarrantApp Home Warranty plan covers the costs of repairing or replacing more than 20 major appliances and home systems, including plumbing. There are flexible plans that allow you to choose the best fit for your family’s needs and you can even build your own custom plan so you have the exact coverage you want.

Do Home Warranties Cover Plumbing?

Generally speaking, home warranties do cover plumbing when issues result from normal wear and tear. Not every plan is created equally, though, so it’s important to look at what exactly is covered, especially if you already have a contract. Some of the common plumbing troubles covered by AHS include:

  • Leaks and breaks in the water, gas, drain or vent lines
  • Faucets, shower heads, and shower valves
  • Built-in bathtub whirlpool motors, pumps, and air switches
  • Clearing sink, tub, shower and toilet stoppages

Be sure to check the yor contract for more details.

Give Yourself Peace of Mind

Unfortunately, plumbing issues are inevitable in any home. Since the best plan is to be prepared, you can ease your stress by giving yourself the gift of an American Home Shield plan.

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The Real Benefits of Home Service Contracts

It's Saturday morning. With a cup of coffee in hand, you flip open the blinds and gaze out at your backyard. Despite the sunny morning, you notice standing water in the corner of your lawn.

Your heart sinks as you realize the water is your flooded leach field.

The home warranty contract you had when you first bought the house a year ago would have covered this, but you opted not to renew it last month.

What is a Home Warranty?

A home warranty is a service contract and covers wear and tear related repairs or the replacement of important home system components and appliances that break down over time.

A home warranty protects you and your family from bearing extreme expense and hardship from breakdowns not covered by your home insurance policy. Plans vary and can cover major home systems such as air conditioning, heating, electrical and plumbing as well as major home appliances such as kitchen ovens, stoves, refrigerators, and washers.

"I'm never going to have to pay for anything again!"

This isn't true.

Home warranty service contracts can cover a lot of major repairs or replace important systems and appliances, but only if you're signed up for the right one.

And there are a lot of companies out there advocating on behalf of these service contracts and the warranties they offer, and just like anything, they're not always truthful and the expectations they set with consumers can be misleading. They advertise that, under their umbrella policies, homeowners will never have to pay out of pocket again for repairs and services for their homes.

This isn't true.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of gross misrepresentations within home service contracts and the advertisements promoting them. Where, homeowners are led to believe if they spend more for what looks like an all-inclusive contract, they'll never have to pay for repairs or services to their home again, no matter what they are.

This isn't true.

The Honest Benefits of Owning a Home Service Contract

  • 1.The ability to call on a network of available pre-screened contractors for whatever their specialty is.
    • Instead of choosing a contractor blindly, a home service contract includes the right people to call on for the right jobs, mitigating the frustration of doing your own, unadvised research and dealing with the costly repercussions of illegitimate contractors who overcharge or are unfit to do the job. Not to mention, you'll never be covered for an all-out replacement.
    • In the earlier example of the flooded leach field, the service company the homeowners call on independently – because they no longer have the benefits of in-network contractors included in a home warranty – could falsely charge them. Instead of only replacing the sewage ejector pump causing the problems, the contractor might also cite septic tank malfunctions and replace the line from the house. How would the homeowner know?
    • Most homeowners don't have the time to manage what a contractor is doing or the knowledge to determine what repairs are needed and which are unnecessary. They just know they need it fixed. Home service contracts and their representatives are motivated to do the right thing on behalf of the homeowner because they are the ones who are paying for it.
  • If you pick wisely, you really will save money. Home service contracts really do pay claims.
    • The best part about the home warranty is when the consumer walks away without a penalty for wears and tears that naturally will happen to their home over time. Protect yourself, your family and your home by preparing for – not if, but – when your home systems and appliances malfunction or need repair or replacement.

 

 

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