Occasionally we come across helpful information that doesn't merit an entire blog post, but that our members will find of interest. Check back often as we update these frequently.
Virginia's Historic Pie
December 1st is National Pie Day, so we are taking a look at a favorite fruit pie of Virginians that dates back to the years we insured Thomas Jefferson's Monticello - Damson Plum Pie.
Damson plum tree cuttings were brought to Virginia by English colonists in the early 1700s and thrived in Virginia's climate. Thomas Jefferson grew Damson plums in his south orchard and you can get cuttings to grow your own tree from Monticello even now.
The Damson plum is a small, egg-shaped, purple fruit that has a sweet and spicy flavor. It was used to make preserves and wine by many growers.
Damson Plum Pie, often called Damson Caramel pie or simply Caramel pie, had its heyday in the 1800s as more Virginians planted their own cuttings from neighbor's orchards. Because of its silky, sweet texture, the pie tricks eaters into thinking it contains caramel, but it is only a combination of Damson plum preserves, butter, eggs, sugar, and a touch of vanilla.
Have you heard of Damson Plum Pie? Search the old cookbooks your grandmother handed down and you'll likely find a recipe for this "Old Virginia Favorite."
Higher than Average Snow Forecast for Most of Virginia This Winter
The first El Nino winter in years has the scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicting a winter of higher than average snowfall for most of Virginia.
El Nino typically brings wetter and cooler weather to the southern U.S., while our neighbors to the north experience drier and warmer weather. Based on historical data, this map shows what Virginians can expect this coming January through March. Blue areas are higher than average, and brown are lower than average.
If you want to make sure your home is ready for the first snow, read our post:
Sources: CNN, NOAA
Bankers See Mortgage Rates Fall Next Year
The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) predicts mortgage rates will see a significant drop by the end of 2024, but the accompanying shortage of available homes will drive up sale prices for the next three years.
Moderating inflation and a decline in borrowing costs due to a sluggish economy will bring rates down from their two-decade highs. Mike Fratantoni, chief economist of the MBA, says the U.S. will face a recession in early 2024, along with a higher unemployment rate of 5%, while inflation will come down to the Federal Reserve's 2% target by mid-2025.
This economic combination will force mortgage rates to 6.1% in 2024, and 5.5% in 2025.
Source: Newsweek, MBA
Virginia Ranks in Top 5 States with Fewest Burglaries
According to Insurify, Virginia ranks 49th out of the 50 states for the fewest number of burglaries, averaging 134 burglaries per 100,000 residents in the latest report for 2021. This places the Commonwealth behind only New Hampshire, which averaged 103 burglaries per 100,000 residents.
Home burglaries were on a decline before Covid hit, but lockdowns drove the counts down 19% during 2020 and 2021. With more employers allowing staff to continue to work from home, this has deterred many burglars who usually break in during the daytime when homeowners aren't there.
In case you are wondering, New Mexico had the highest number of burglaries at a rate of 649 per 100,000.
Average Household Wealth at Every Age
The US Census Bureau has analyzed household wealth using 2021 data and reported the average household wealth at every age.
Wealth is defined in this analysis as “the value of assets owned minus the debts owed.” The median household wealth (meaning that half had more and half had less) in 2021 was $166,900.
Retirement accounts and home equity are the two largest elements of most households’ wealth. In fact, homeowner households have approximately 44 times the median wealth of renters.
Of note, the lowest-earning 10% of American households had zero dollars (no wealth, or negative wealth), while the wealthiest 10% were worth over $1.6 million.
Here is a summary of the analysis in 2021 dollars:
Households led by someone in the following age groups:
75 and older
Source: Money Talk News
A Jefferson Quarter and a Cup of Ice
If a big storm is coming, put a cup of water in your freezer and let it solidify. Then put a quarter on top of it and leave the cup in your freezer. Should you have to evacuate, when you return home, you can check to see if your food went bad and refroze while you were gone. If the quarter is at the bottom of the cup, then your food defrosted, and you should throw it out. If the quarter is on the top or in the middle of the cup, your food should still be OK.
It may be a good idea to leave this in your freezer all of the time so if you lose power, you still have this tip to help keep you and your family safe.
The Importance of Home Insurance
As the costs for homeowners insurance rise, many policyholders may be tempted to reduce their coverage. Financial guru Suze Orman has some thoughts on that.
"I know budgets may be stretched, but please don't skimp on your homeowners insurance. Your home is likely a big part of your net worth. I know it can be tempting to reduce your coverage. That's rarely a good idea, but certainly doesn't make much sense given the increase in severe weather events in recent years.
At a minimum, I want you to have a policy that covers the 'replacement cost' of property damage. If you can get a policy with 'extended replacement cost,' that's the best choice. In the event you have a major loss, your insurer will consider a payout that is as much as 125% or so of your stated limit with an 'extended replacement cost' policy."
According to Orman, the average homeowner insurance policy has experienced double-digit percentage increases in annual premiums. In addition to the increased risk of weather-related damage, insurers are also looking at much higher construction costs, and inflation will only make those increase."
"All I ask," says Orman, is that you make finding the extra needed funds to cover your home insurance "a top priority in your financial life."
Mutual Assurance members know that they have the best coverage at the lowest possible price. That's peace of mind that Suze Orman would celebrate.
To read Orman's entire post, click here.
The Latest Hurricane Forecast for Peak Season 2023
The Colorado State University (CSU) August Storm Prediction forecast has come out and predicts a 48%
chance of a hurricane making landfall in the U.S., which is 5 percentage points higher than the average. In fact, 2023 looks ready to surpass all standard measurements in storm activity.
Do you think your home insurance coverage is adequate? Most experts feel that 2 out of every 3 homes in the U.S. is underinsured by about 22%.
At Mutual Assurance, we make certain your home is adequately covered for full replacement value. If you aren't a member yet, get an estimate and see what we think is the right coverage for your property.
It's Cheaper to Build than to Buy a Home in Virginia
According to a countrywide June 2023 study by StorageCafe, Virginia is one of the top 10 states (ranked 5th) where building a home is less expensive than purchasing an existing one. The study looked at the current market, which is characterized by high listing prices and a lack of inventory, and discovered that Virginia homebuyers can save 27% on a home by building rather than buying.
Of course, location and lot size can impact this difference, but all things being equal, The estimated cost to build is $361,000, and the median home listing price is $458,000.
Hawaii, California, Colorado, and Utah are the states where building vs. buying is even more of a cost savings. So if you are looking to make a move, look at available lots as well as homes and see if you can save more by building your dream home.
Home Damage Caused by Lightning Declined in 2022
According to the Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I), the value of lightning-related U.S. home insurance claims dropped around 27% in 2022, totaling $952 million compared with $1.3 billion in 2021. The average cost per lightning claim declined 29% year-over-year to $15,280. This drop in claims costs pulled down the overall total paid out by insurers - despite a 2.2% year-on-year increase in lightning-related claims volume.
In 2022, Virginia had 1,988 claims worth $31 million dollars at an average cost of $15, 544, putting it in 9th place out of the 50 states. Florida had the most claims and associated costs.
The Lightning Protection Institute (LPI) notes the key to personal safety and risk mitigation is to take steps to protect your property before a storm strikes. "A properly installed lightning protection system is scientifically proven to mitigate the damage from a lightning strike," said Tim Harger, executive director of the Lightning Protection Institute (LPI).
Source: Property Casualty 360
1794 Was a Banner Year
Mutual Assurance was founded in 1794, making it a banner year for Virginia, but 1794 is also when President George Washington signed into law the Flag Act, which created the first and only official U.S. flag with 15 stripes. The new flag also had 15 stars to accommodate the admission of Vermont and Kentucky into the Union. This version flew from 1795 until 1818.
In 1818, a new Flag Act established the modern rule of having thirteen stripes representing the original thirteen colonies, as well as the number of stars matching the number of states. It further stipulated that all new flags should only be introduced on July 4th, Independence Day.
Happy Flag Day 2023.
New Tropical Weather Forecast Timing
The National Hurricane Center just issued its first-ever seven-day Tropical Weather Outlook. In the past, the NHC issued two and five-day outlooks, but the technology has gotten so good that they are going with two and seven-day forecasts so those impacted will have more notice to prepare.
Now homeowners and businesses will have more time to empty store shelves of milk, bread, and plywood.
Forewarned is forearmed, as the saying goes.
Best Cities in Virginia to Start a Career
Wallet Hub has determined the best and worst cities in which someone should start a career. They looked at a number of factors across two dimensions, "Professional Opportunities" and "Quality of Life" including the availability of entry-level jobs, monthly average starting salary, annual job growth rate, and unemployment/underemployment rates. Job satisfaction, based on the Indeed Job Happiness Index, was also a factor.
In their results, our state capital of Richmond ranked 19th, ahead of Boston, Raleigh, Nashville, Charlotte, and even Dallas.
Other Virginia Cities that made the list of 182 destinations were Virginia Beach at the 92nd spot, Norfolk at #102, and Newport News at #152. In case you were wondering about all of those suburbs around Washington, DC, our nation's capital was slotted in at #23.
If you know someone coming to Richmond to start a career, tell them about Mutual Assurance. We offer renters insurance until they decide to purchase a home - and if they already have renters with us, they pay only 50% of their first-year premium on their HO5.
If you are interested in finding out where other U.S. cities ranked, visit https://tinyurl.com/msvjhenahttps://tinyurl.com/msvjhena.
Virginia Ranks 15th in Most Affordable Places to Re-Build a Home
Mutual Assurance bases your home value on how much it would cost to replace it should a catastrophic loss occur. A recent report from Today's Homeowner estimates that rebuilding a 2,100-square-foot spec home in Virginia (excluding the cost of the land and development) would be $310,815, or $148 per square foot.
This makes Virginia the 15th lowest place to build a new home in the U.S.
When looking at replacement cost, non-spec finishing touches such as crown molding, hardwood floors, high-end appliances, and quartz countertops make the cost per square foot much higher.
Many homeowners think the market price of their home should be the insured value of their home, and the result is that they are under-insuring their house. The fact is, rebuilding a home is typically far more expensive than buying that same home.
Do you think your home is insured for the right amount? With Mutual Assurance, you know it is.