Business

Dear homeowners: Are you prepared?

By Tricia Ackerman, Federal Way real estate agent

Whenever a natural disaster is broadcast on the news, it serves as a reminder how hazardous water, wind, fire and earth movement can be to your home — perhaps your most cherished and largest investment.

There are immediate actions you can take to protect your property and prevent major damage should one of these elements strike in the future. Depending on the age of your home and the building codes in your area, some of these improvements may already be in place.

Apart from major flooding, most damage occurs when water seeps in through cracks and leaks. Make sure that windows and doors are well sealed. Seal any cracks and holes in the foundation and exterior walls. Repair or replace roof shingles around any area that allows water to penetrate the roof sheathing. Check for holes or air leaks in the attic and basement. Your basement windows and doors should have built-up barriers or flood shields. Inspect your sump pump regularly to make sure that it is working properly. Install or make sure that the flashing, a thin metal strip around the doors, windows, thresholds, chimney and roof, are intact.

Of course, there may be times, when no amount of prepping can protect your home. However, homeowners insurance can help protect you financially in case something happens to your property or its contents. Most standard homeowners insurance policies include structural coverage and personal property coverage. Depending on location, you may also need additional coverage against earthquake, hurricane and fire.

Flood damage is not covered under the traditional homeowners insurance policy. Flood insurance needs to be purchased separately through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), a federal program. It is available to nearly 20,000 communities across the U.S. and its territories that participate in the NFIP.

Flooding can be caused by heavy rains, melting snow, inadequate drainage systems, failed protective devices such as levees and dams, as well as by tropical storms and hurricanes. So, although you may be in a low to moderate risk area, you may still want to consider this coverage.

Periodically review your homeowners insurance policy to make sure that you are adequately covered to rebuild your home and replace your contents.

If there is ever damage to your personal property, having a home inventory can make it easier when filing an insurance claim. Start with a sheet a paper for each room in the house. Go around the room and list every item. Don’t forget the attic, basement or other storage places. For each item, write the original cost, purchase date, replacement cost, model number, brand name, where purchased, and a general description. In addition, take photos or video of each room for visual documentation. It is also a good idea to arrange valuable collections, silver, jewelry, etc., and take close up photos. Update your home inventory photos and list at least once a year.

By taking precautions to protect your home, you can possibly help keep damage to a minimum; or in the case of severe damage, make sure that you have the financial means to rebuild.

Visit www.disastersafety.org or www.fema.gov.

Tricia Ackerman is an agent with Prudential Northwest Realty in Federal Way: TriciaAckerman@pnwrealty.com or www.triciaackerman.com.

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