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Mutual Shorts


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Occasionally, we come across helpful information that doesn't merit an entire blog post, but we think our members will find interesting. Check back often as we update these frequently.

 

Quick Tips


To start your week off on a positive note, we've started posting short videos on social media that give you a quick tip on how you can protect and maintain your home. Since some of our members don't have social media accounts, you can see these videos by clicking here. We update this page each week, so check back often.


While you're there, check out our other videos, including member stories, what we look for in an inspection, and some shorts on our historic policies.



 

2024 Hurricane Names


Is your name on the list?




Alberto Kirk

Beryl Leslie

Chris Milton

Debby Nadine

Ernesto Oscar

Francine Patty

Gordon Rafael

Helene Sara

Isaac Tony

Joyce Valerie

William



 

Batten Down The Hatches


NOAA is predicting a banner year for the 2024 Hurricane season.


In 2023, NOAA predicted 14 named storms, 4 to 8 hurricanes, with 1-3 major hurricanes.


2023 actually had 20 named storms, 7 hurricanes, and three major hurricanes.


For 2024, NOAA is forecasting 23 named storms, 11 hurricanes, and 5 major hurricanes.


There is also a 62% chance a major hurricane will make mainland U.S. this year, compared to a 150-year average of 43%.


This video explains the difference between each category of storm. Here's how to Assemble Your Storm Kit and another to help you Prepare Your Finances for a Natural Disaster.





 

Household Spending by Category


Do you know how much you spend on clothes each year? Does it matter? When it comes to insurance, it does. If you purchase a new Wolf Range or a fur coat, you'll want to speak with your underwriter to make sure your limits and sub-limits adequately cover your purchases.


Household spending in the U.S. is equally divided between clothing, appliances and equipment, and furniture and miscellaneous with each around 33% of total spend.


How does your spending compare to National averages - and how has spending changed since 1994? Here's a chart:




Source: iii.org

 

A Great Gift for New Homeowners


Four section image of screw extractor kit solutions with rusty screw, broken bar, stuck screw, and sliding tooth screw problems shown

A worn screw extractor kit is one of the best gifts you can give a new homeowner or DIYer. With a drill and one of the bits from this kit, you can remove any stubborn screw a regular drill bit won't budge.


Simply choose a bit from an extraction kit that is slightly larger than the screw you are trying to remove, and in seconds, it will come out. For some really stubborn screws, you may need to drill into the screw with the other end of the bit to get a little more leverage, but it is worth the extra step and will save lots of frustration and wasted effort.


You don't have to spend a lot on a set. Amazon has a good one for only $9.99. For the serious DIYer,

though, you can get a fancier kit that will help with any situation.


Trust us, this kit is a must-have. You can now use your rubber bands as they were intended.


 

Fix and Prevent Sewer Odors in Your Home


If you've ever walked into your home and smelled gasses from your sewer line, don't panic; the most common cause is a dried-up drain.


Showers and sink drain pipes are curved so water can sit in them and prevent sewer gasses from making their way up the pipes and into your homes. When not used often, the water in these drains can evaporate, leading to odiferous consequences.


To prevent this from happening, run water into the drains that aren't used as often, and then pour in a bit of vegetable oil to coat the surface of the water and prevent

evaporation. Vegetable oil will not solidify and clog your drains, and because oil is lighter than water, it will float on the surface until you next use the sink or shower. If it will be a while before the bathroom is used again (let's say it's a guest bathroom), repeat the process to prevent another stinky surprise after guests have left.


After you've aired out your home for a few hours, if the smell is as strong as before, you should call a plumber.


 

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.


Map of the U.S and Canada showing rain predictions in quantity going from white to blue to brown where white is normal, blue is more, and brown is less

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



Man in hoodie and blue jeans with back to camera looking at a brick colonial home

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.


Source: PropertyCasualty360

 

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:

Median Wealth

Under 35

$30,500

35-44

$126,900

45-54

$186,000

55-64

$276,000

65-69

$341,400

70-74

$373,900

75 and older

$315,900

Source: Money Talk News

 

A Jefferson Quarter and a Cup of Ice


overhead photo of frozen glass of water with US quarter sitting on top

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

Young woman sitting on sofa and leaning over coffee table while holding a receipt in one hand and punching numbers on a calculatore resting on the top of the table

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.


graph of hurricane forecast for 2023

 

It's Cheaper to Build than to Buy a Home in Virginia

New home on corner with street sign and trees

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.


Source: StorageCafe

 

Home Damage Caused by Lightning Declined in 2022

Lightning in clouds over Virginia Valley
Andreas/Pixabay

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

Early American flag with 13 stars and 13 stripes

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

Cloudy sky with wind-blown palm trees in the foreground reflecting tropical storm approach

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

Vector map with dots showing cities across the U.S. where it is easier to start a new 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

Sunny, clear sky with wood framing on new home construction in the foreground

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.

 
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