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Orders Issued for Vacation Rentals and Boats

As cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in Florida daily, officials look to slow the spread of the virus. “New executive orders are coming weekly, changing our daily routines it is important to stay informed,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance Florida’s largest independent homeowners insurance agency.

On Friday, Gov. DeSantis signed an Executive Order to suspend vacation rentals for 2 weeks, until April 10. Vacation rentals such as Airbnb and HomeAway are prohibited from making new reservations. They also cannot accept new guests for check-in for the duration of the order. However, the ban does not apply to travelers already staying in a vacation rental.

There are exemptions to the order. It does not apply to hotels, motels, resorts, time-shares or long-term rentals (over 30 days). Stays set to begin no later than March 28 are also exempt from the ban.

Those violating the order are subject to criminal sanctions including potential second-degree misdemeanor charges and may have their vocational rental license revoked.

Recreational boats are also facing new rules. An order on Friday says all recreational boats must be at least 50 feet apart with no more than 10 people on board. This is an effort to enforce social distancing on Florida’s waterways. 

“We all have to make sacrifices during this time to promote wellness,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance Florida’s largest independent homeowners insurance agency.

Responding to travel bans and an increase in cancellations, Airbnb is offering flexibility to cancel bookings without penalties. They are offering guests full refunds and hosts no charge cancellations for reservations booked on or before March 14 with a check-in date of April 14 or earlier, according to the Airbnb website.

When the policy was announced, some short-term rental owners saw their vacation-rental reservations disappear. Many hosts have watched their incomes dissolve. On Monday, Airbnb addressed the concerns with a $250 million Host Relief Fund to cover some costs of COVID-19 cancellations. The reimbursements are funded by Airbnb and will go to hosts with qualifying cancellations, paying 25 percent of what they would normally receive from a canceled booking.

GreatFlorida Insurance is here for you. If you have questions about homeowners insurance contact us today.

What does it mean to, “Stay-at-Home?”

As of this morning, Florida is reporting over 1,400 COVID-19 cases with 18 deaths. Miami-Dade and Broward counties are the hardest hit areas so far in Florida.

Over a dozen states across the US and millions of Americans have been asked to stay-at-home or shelter-in-place. The reason is to help prevent the spread of the virus and the drain on the healthcare system. CNN reports, as of Wednesday, that will be 40 percent of the US population.

Miami Beach is the first city in Florida to enact a stay-at-home order. The Miami Herald reports, other cities are expected to follow. As of Monday, Gov. DeSantis said he has no plans to issue a statewide stay-at-home order.

“This situation is fluid, and changes daily,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s largest independent homeowners insurance agency.

So what happens if your city, county or state is place under stay-at-home restrictions? What does that mean? There are slight differences between how the states define the limitations, but for most areas it means the following.

You Can…

  • Go to the grocery, convenience or warehouse store
  • Go to the pharmacy to pick up medications and other healthcare necessities
  • Go to medical appointments (check with your doctor or provider first)
  • Go to a restaurant for take-out, delivery or drive-thru
  • Care or support a friend or family member
  • Take a walk, ride your bike, hike, jog and be in nature for exercise — just keep at least six feet between you and others in the community. Keep in mind, all state parks in Florida are closed.
  • Walk your pets and take them to the veterinarian if necessary
  • Help someone to get necessary supplies

You Should Not…

  • Go to work unless you are providing essential services
  • Visit friends and family if there is no urgent need
  • Maintain less than 6 feet of distance from others when you go out
  • Visit loved ones in the hospital, nursing home, skilled nursing facility, or other residential care facility

“There is so much misinformation about COVID-19, please consider the source of your information and make sure it is reliable,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s top independent homeowners insurance agency.

There are differing opinions on how to handle the situation. Whether you agree on how things are being handled or not it is important to stay informed. Below are links you can find out the most current information in our state.

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-stay-at-home-order.html

https://www.flmedical.org/florida/Florida_Public/Education/Coronavirus_Information.aspx

GreatFlorida Insurance is here for you. If you have questions about homeowners insurance contact us today.

Working from Home

It is no longer business as usual. With the COVID-19 many companies are implementing remote work and requesting or demanding their employees work from home.

The Insurance Journal reports in the past, certain licensed insurance employees were restricted from working from home by a Florida law that required agents conduct business from their agency offices. But due to the unprecedented conditions insurance reps can now work from home.

“Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, who oversees the Florida Department of Financial Services, has issued a directive allowing Florida agency customer service representatives who would otherwise be restricted from conducting business outside of a licensed agency to do so given the current circumstances,” reports the Insurance Journal.

“This change will certainly allow more flexibility and opportunity for agents during these unusual times,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s leading independent homeowners insurance agency.

Working from home can be a blessing and a curse. Below are some tips to keep you productive and not feeling isolated.

Establish a schedule– Create realistic office hours. If you have children at home, it is not sensible to think you can work the same hours as a typical workday. Check your employer’s expectations but make them aware of your limitations during this time.

Get dressed– Going through a routine of taking a shower and putting on clothes will help your mind prepare for work, as opposed to rolling out of bed in your PJ’s.

Create a workspace– If you do not already have an office, designate a place to work. Place your laptop on a surface-a dining table, coffee table or kitchen counter. Also, be sure to keep it as you would at work, organized and tidy.

Make sure you are secure-Whether you are using a company provided or personal tech, be sure your mobile phone, laptop, home computer and router are secure. NBC News spoke with the country’s top digital security experts and they made the following recommendations. Always utilize the company’s designated communications platform. Install a commercial grade security software. Be alert for hackers and scammers taking advantage of increased telecommuting.

Check-In-Establish times throughout the day to check-in with co-workers, your boss, your team. This will keep you organized and on the same page. Even if you don’t have to check in with co-workers. Working remotely can eliminate the social connection you have at work, maintaining that connection is vital to your well-being during a time of already strained social interaction.

“Send your co-workers a funny meme, joke or emoji,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s top independent homeowners insurance agency.

Utilize video-Phone calls are great, but video is better. Communication is better grasped when you can see facial expressions. It also helps deepen the connections with people. Check out Skype or Zoom.

Get on up-Be sure to move around and give yourself breaks, check the mail, grab a snack, or go for a walk down the street. Get some fresh air and breathe. These are unique times, but we will all get through them if we stick together, be patient and extend kindness to others.

GreatFlorida Insurance is here for you. If you have questions about homeowners insurance contact us today.

Avoid Common Causes of Boat Damage

Florida leads the country in boating accidents and fatalities. A 2018 report from the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) says Florida had 607 boating accidents resulting in over $7 million in property damage.

“Preparation and training can help prevent most boating accidents,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s leading independent boat insurance agency.

The top boat claims include the following:

Towing

BoatUS, a U.S. Boat Owners Association, analyzed 5 years of claims from 2012 to 2017. They found 40 percent of all claims were towing claims. Learning how to properly tow a boat can be challenging. There are many variables that go into towing. Be sure to check your vehicle’s towing specifications, along with all the weights. Keep in mind the tongue weight. This figure will tell you how much of the trailer’s weight can rest on the hitch. Also, be sure to balance your cargo. Don’t forget to check the often-overlooked trailer tire pressure.

Sinking

Boats can sink for several reasons. In order to prevent a sinking boat, get proper maintenance and regular inspections. When you are out on the water, be aware of the weather which in Florida can transition quickly. Always check tides and currents as well as changing depths.

Weather

“When it comes to hurricanes, thankfully we get ample warning,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s largest independent boat insurance agency. This gives you enough time to move your boat out of the water if possible. Don’t forget to pull the drain plug and remove the electronics on board. If your boat will remain in the water, tie it securely and cover lines to prevent chaffing. Protect the boat from rubbing against the pier, pilings or other boats.

Collisions

Collisions with another vessel are typically caused by inattention, blind spots and speed. Drivers must always pay attention but also appoint a look-out. Before turning, be sure to look in all directions. And always maintain a safe speed in congested areas and at night. The water doesn’t have a clear right of way, so all boat drivers must take responsibility for avoiding a collision.

Striking a submerged object

It is very difficult to avoid striking a submerged object such as a log because it can be so hard to see. Drought conditions and heavy rains can contribute to floating debris in the water.  If you hit a submerged object, stop and check the bilge for leaks. Once you arrive at the dock, do another more thorough check for damage.

GreatFlorida Insurance can customize a boat insurance policy to protect your vessel and extend to your boating equipment in and out of the water. Give us a call today.

Putting Together a Home Quarantine Kit for Coronavirus

Voluntary or involuntary home quarantine may become more common as Florida declared a public health emergency Sunday after two patients tested positive for coronavirus in Hillsborough and Manatee counties. More positive tests are expected in the coming days.

Hundreds of Americans are already under voluntary self-quarantine for 14 days after to see whether they develop symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending that people who are sick with respiratory disease symptoms stay home, even though they acknowledge these symptoms are more likely to be from the flu than coronavirus.

“Self-quarantine occurs when people are asymptomatic and monitoring themselves for the development of symptoms,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s largest independent homeowners insurance agency.

If you find yourself among those who need to stay home, being prepared a head of time is ideal. You can purchase a ready-made preparedness kit or build your own. Here is what your home emergency kit should contain in the case of possible quarantine due to the coronavirus outbreak according to The American Red Cross and Homeland Security.

  • Water-rule of thumb is one gallon per person and pet per day for 14 days
  • Food-a supply of easy to make food for at least 14 days for each person
  • First aid kit
  • Multi-purpose tool, such as Swiss Army knife
  • Personal hygiene items-soap, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, diapers (if needed) and feminine care products
  • Plastic bags for trash
  • Medications-try to get a 30-day supply of prescriptions
  • Medical supplies-over-the-counter medication such as pain relievers, thermometer, contact lenses and fluids with electrolytes
  • Entertainment items such as books, cards and games
  • Electronic versions of health records
  • Emergency contact information- family, friends, neighbors, carpool drivers, health care providers, teachers, employers, the local health department and other community resources

“This list is simply to help people feel more prepared for the unknown, not incite panic,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s top independent homeowners insurance agency.

Also, it is important to talk with family members about how they would be cared for if they got sick or what will be needed to care for them in your home.

What about face masks? The Surgeon General, Jerome M. Adams advised Americans to skip the face masks, declaring they are for sick patients and are not effective in preventing the coronavirus.

GreatFlorida Insurance has homeowners insurance designed to keep your home protected in the event of a worse case scenario. Contact us today.

Renovations to Sell Your Home in 2020

Spring is the most popular time of year to buy and sell a home. In fact, real estate listing website Zillow, reports the best time to maximize your return and minimize your home’s time on the market is May 1 to May 15.

“That means now is the ideal time to get your home ready to list,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s largest independent homeowners insurance agency.

Getting your home ready to sell might require renovations that can boost your home’s value. Most buyers are interested in a home that is clean with modern updates, that is move-in ready. But before you empty your wallet renovating, it is important to know which renovations yield the highest return for the money.

“While it is not necessary to break the bank on renovations, at best, clean up inside and out,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s largest independent homeowers insurance agency.

Also, fix any glaring issues that would deter a buyer such as, popcorn ceilings, stained carpet or broken light fixtures. Paint can do wonders but keep in neutral. Spruce up your yard and entry way with flowers or new house numbers to add curb appeal.

Remodeling magazine comes out with an annual Cost vs. Value report, where they examine the cost of popular home renovations versus the return on investment (ROI) at resale.

Here are the top home renovation projects that deliver the highest returns according to the 2019 Cost vs. Value report for the South Atlantic region.

Manufactured stone veneer – 91.4 percent cost recouped

Garage door replacement– 86.1 percent cost recouped

Kitchen remodel (mid-range)- 82.8 percent cost recouped

Entry door replacement (steel)- 75.8 percent cost recouped

Deck addition (wood)- 74.8 percent cost recouped  

Window and sliding door replacements, along with asphalt roofing replacement rounds out the top of the list.

Contact GreatFlorida Insurance, if you are looking for homeowner’s insurance. Get a quote as soon as your contract is signed.  We can help you finalize the details well in advance of your closing date.

Shouldn’t Loyalty be a Two-Way Street?

A message from DEBE CAMPOS-FLEENOR, NAPAA President, Active Allstate Agent

DEBE CAMPOS-FLEENOR, NAPAA President, Active Allstate Agent

I recently received a phone call from a very good friend who lives in California and works for Select Quote. To my surprise, he told me that he was flying to the Midwest to get training on selling Allstate Insurance.

I then asked him if it was Allstate proper, Esurance or Encompass, and, with joy in his voice, he responded, “No Debe, I am actually selling Allstate Insurance!” I did not know what to say, except for wow! So
much for agent exclusivity.

It appears the only thing about exclusivity in the world of Allstate is that exclusive agency owners are excluded from selling a plethora of products. At the same time, Allstate offers these products through different channels with higher commissions for sellers. Shouldn’t loyalty be a two-way street? Most agents I know, including myself, are extremely loyal to Allstate.

Sometimes, I wonder if Allstate is loyal to us. The above is just one of the many challenges agents face within their agencies. During September’s NAPAA conference, we highlighted not only the new Integrated Service Solution but many other challenges that have plagued our agencies throughout the years. Most challenges are dealt with by coming up with creative solutions.

This particular issue, a requirement that new agencies under $1.5 million use Integrated Services, could be a detriment to reselling small-to-medium-size businesses from a cash flow basis. Allstate is requiring the new buyers to open their offices with three or more LSPs and to use Integrated Services, which is not cheap. At the current rate of 2 percent of written premiums, this would cost a $1.5 million-size agency $2,500 a month.

This number will probably change so agencies join, but nothing would stop Allstate from increasing the cost at a later time.
I would venture to say that even if Allstate were offering Integrated Services at no cost, it would still possibly be a bad deal.
There are many reasons to hesitate, but here are just a few concerns: poor to bad customer service experience (based on past attempts), inability to cross-sell, and our personal relationship losses.

We all have CIC horror stories. A lot of our new business comes from cross-selling, and how many times do we talk to Betty or Jane about their children graduating, getting married or having a baby. Aren’t these the cues we use to talk about life insurance?

On the horizon, we see Advisor Pro lurking its malfunctioning head across our desks, causing hours of agony while writing one little ole renters’ policy, UGH! When will the chains of technology torture ever end? On Aug. 24, 2019, agents and Allstate had tremendous losses of revenue when technology outages prevented our offices from writing any quotes in either Alliance or Advisor Pro. We will never know how many potential clients went to another company to get a quote.

Surely, Allstate could not have been happy about this problem. No one was making money with this outage. It affects customer service as well. We were not able to complete any endorsements; they were not taking phone calls and the chat line was down.

Maybe the Company should fix existing problems before starting a new program. Just a thought!
If there was ever a time to come together and lock arms, it is now. NAPAA is here to join forces with agents across the nation to open dialogue to share ideas and solutions that not only will be productive for agents but win/win solutions for agents and Allstate.

We have weathered many storms, including IPS, ABO, losing line 19, and requirements of LSP count.
Can we talk?

Join NAPAA and let us work together and help Allstate help us.

Debe Campos-Fleenor began her affiliation with Allstate in 2004 as an LSP, opening her own “scratch” agency in 2006. Debe joined
NAPAA shortly thereafter and has served as both Executive Vice President and Treasurer. She is active in many groups and organizations, including the Allstate Foundation programs for domestic violence and teen safe driving. Debe has been awarded the Allstate
Helping Hands Award several times and has made significant contributions to the Allstate Giving Hands campaign. She was nominated for Woman of Influence in 2008. Debe is a regular contributor to the Exclusivefocus magazine. An expert at locating marketing items available from the company, her presentations at NAPAA live events are always a big hit.

Changes this Tax Season

Tax season is upon us. Time to gather all your paperwork and receipts from 2019.

“Life events can affect your taxes. Some of them include, a change in marital status, educational expenses, buying or selling a home, retirement, a raise, receiving an inheritance and dealing with a death,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s top independent homeowners insurance company.

“Even without major tax law changes, every year brings a host of smaller amendments to existing provisions,” reports financial website, The Motley Fool.

Here is some of what is new for your 2019 tax filing.

  • The IRS is raising the standard deduction to $12,200 for individuals and to $24,400 for married joint filers. The additional standard deduction for older taxpayers and those who are blind is still available.
  • The IRS has raised the employee contribution limit for 401k, 403b and most 457 plans to $19,500. This lowers your taxable income.
  • Some families will be eligible for a deduction of $2,000 to $4,000 for college tuition.
  • Victims of hurricanes, major floods or wildfire, those acknowledged as a “presidentially declared disaster area,” may benefit from tax breaks.
  • If your medical expenses were more than 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income, you can deduct those expenses.

“There are some long-time deductions that will not be included on 2019 tax forms,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s largest independent homeowners insurance company.

  • For recently divorced Americans, alimony payments are no longer tax deductible by the payer. They are also not considered or included as taxable income by the parent receiving support.
  • Those job seeking, can no longer deduct expenses related to finding a new job.
  • Employees are no longer permitted to deduct un-reimbursed expenses that they incur from work.
  • No more moving expense deductions, except for active military for a move relating to military orders to a permanent location.  

If you are looking for reliable homeowners insurance and trustworthy agents to guide you through the insurance buying process, contact GreatFlorida Insurance today.

Best Cars of 2020

“Accessing your needs and determining your budget are among the most important factors in buying a new car,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s top independent auto insurance agency.

With so many new models and designs on the market, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. If you are in the market for a new vehicle, we have guides to help steer you in the right direction. Experts at U.S. News & World Report, along with Car and Driver have come out with their top vehicle picks for this year.

Car and Driver has picked their 10 Best Cars and Trucks. For two weeks they tested 92 cars, trucks, SUV’s and Vans. “Our 10 Best winners still represent the smartest, most entertaining vehicles you can buy today.”

Car and Driver says, “Every winner must deliver exceptional driving engagement, offer indisputable value and/or practicality, and fulfill its mission better than any of its competition. As a result, these are the cars we’d own.”

Below is their list. All are 2020 vehicles.

Chevrolet Corvette

Honda Accord

Jeep Gladiator

Kia Telluride

Mazda CX-5

Porsche 718 Boxster/Cayman

Porsche Macan S/ Turbo

Ram 1500

Toyota Supra

Volkswagen Golf GTI/Jetta GLI

“The idea of a best car is highly subjective, so we thought it was best to include two lists,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s largest independent auto insurance company.

U.S. News & World Report unveiled their picks for the 2020 Best Cars for the Money awards. Each choice represents their best in 11 different categories of vehicles.

“Cars with low price tags aren’t always good values,” said Jamie Page Deaton, Executive Editor of U.S. News Best Cars. “A cheap car can have high ownership costs, making it more expensive in the long run. Plus, a lot of inexpensive cars don’t give you a great ownership experience; it’s not a good deal if it’s not a good car. Every Best Car for the Money winner is a pleasure to own and a good value overall.”

Below is their list. All are 2020 vehicles.

Hyundai Santa Fe

Kia Sorento

Kia Forte

Honda CR-V

Toyota Corolla Hybrid

Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Chevrolet Impala

Toyota Camry

Kia Sodona

Honda Fit

Kia Soul

If you are in the market for a new car, make sure you have reliable insurance. GreatFlorida Insurance has dependable car insurance for you, contact us today.

New RV Trends Across Florida

Looking for adventure? Your solution could be found outside. The idea of escaping into the outdoors and reconnecting with yourself or family is resonating with all ages in the U.S.

“Recreational vehicle ownership is experiencing a boom in the U.S.,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s biggest independent RV insurance agency.

According to a study commissioned by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), the U.S. ownership of RV’s is rapidly increasing, and it is not just among older retirees. “The impact of younger buyers on the RV market is already being seen as they helped drive the most recent expansion of the RV market. Data from Statistical Surveys, Inc, collected on RV retail registrations found that from 2015-2018, the share of RV ownership by age range increased in the younger age brackets while rates remained level or decreased somewhat in older age ranges.”

Half of all new RV sales were to those 45 and younger. Families love the affordability, connection with family and nature as well as the active lifestyle RVing has to offer. Forbes reports, the younger group buying RV’s are Northerners working remotely. More than 26 million Americans—about 16 percent of the total workforce, now work remotely at least part of the time, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

“The movement of telecommuting gives people greater flexibility with their lifestyle,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s top independent RV insurance agency.

To satisfy the increase of travel among new RV fans, leads to another trend. This one is especially effects Florida, the growth of RV parks. Bobby Cornwell, Executive Director of the Florida Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds told Forbes, “We anticipate that as many as 3,000 new RV sites could come online in Florida over the next two years as new resorts open and as existing parks complete their expansions.”

RV parks are expanding with additional RV sites and cabins. Campers don’t just want more space, but amenities for the whole family are also in demand. Many RV parks are upgrading to include heated swimming pools, bocce ball courts, club houses and more.

If the outdoors are calling and you join the millions who own and RV, contact GreatFlorida Insurance  for auto insurance and RV insurance today.