September 2, 2014
EDWARDS — If you’re looking for a short conversation with Noel Harris, don’t mention insurance. If you do want to talk about insurance, then pull up a chair — you’re in for a chat.
Harris is the founder and owner of Wall Street Insurance. Not long after a hard lesson in coverage and personal liability — an incident that left him $40,000 poorer — Harris learned about the insurance business. He started the agency in 1984, after a brief stint as the local representative with a big insurance company convinced him his customers would be better served if they could pick and choose between insurers.
Valerie Harris, Noel’s partner in life and business, said the difference between independent agents and big-company representatives is sort of like banking. For most people, who fit into pre-determined profiles, a big bank or big insurance company works just fine. But some people don’t fit those profiles and need services the big companies don’t provide. That’s where companies like Wall Street make their living — especially in a place where many people fall outside of the standard profiles.
When Harris started, in an office on Wall Street in Vail, the resort and the valley were more isolated from each other than they are now — a call to Edwards carried long distance charges. There was one other insurance agent in Vail at the time — a representative of a big company — and new clients appreciated having an agent with access to other companies and someone they could visit while in town.
Ironically, easy access is what prompted Wall Street’s move to Edwards in 1998.
“People would say they didn’t want to park, or come from Lionshead,” Harris said.
Today, the valley’s year-round bustle has moved to the middle of the valley. Sitting in Harris’ second-floor office, with a bird’s-eye view of Larkburger, reveals nearly-constant foot and vehicle traffic flowing past. That makes an office visit easy to arrange.
While Wall Street’s location change was a big move, the industry as a whole has changed even more. Harris said perhaps the biggest change in the business is advertising that has turned insurance into a commodity based on price above all else.
TAKING THE TIME WITH CUSTOMERS
As big companies acquire smaller ones, and as people do more online insurance buying, Harris believes insurers are losing touch with clients and consumers.
An online process can’t tell a customer just how much insurance he or she actually needs.
“When you look at complaints against insurance companies, it boils down to the fact agents didn’t take the time with customers,” Harris said.
And thus begins a soliloquy about risk and the need for coverage. For instance, he said, state-mandated minimums won’t cover a motorist who hits a pedestrian who then requires lifetime care. Those costs can run into the millions, Harris said. That can lead to financial ruin for people who don’t have appropriate coverage.
Home losses are similar. Many people don’t understand what’s required to replace a home lost to fire or other disaster, he said.
A conscientious agent will ask clients the right questions to protect their interests.
“You’re trying to put yourself in a reasonable position for a worst-case scenario,” Harris said. “We try to make sense of that and give you a proposal that fits those needs.”
After 30 years in the business, Harris isn’t slowing down.
“I want to do this until my employees say ‘get out,’” Harris said. That won’t happen any time soon, he said. “As long as I have the passion to do it, and to help my employees and clients, I’ll be here.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, firstname.lastname@example.org and @scottnmiller.
July 12, 2014
Question: How do I determine proper insurance coverage for my home? I am particularly worried about the upcoming wildfire season. I still remember the devastating consequences that many homeowners on the Front Range faced due to insufficient amount of insurance after their homes have been destroyed by a wildfire.
Answer: When you think of the value of a home, you probably think about market value: what it would sell for or what you would be able to buy it for. However, when it comes to insuring your home, you instead have to consider what it would cost to rebuild in the event of a loss — a number which is often much higher. A market value appraisal of your home does not equal the reconstruction costs necessary to rebuild the home, nor does it equal the “actual value” on your real property valuation used to determine the tax liability.
Dealing with Higher Costs
Reconstruction costs may be higher than your home’s market value, because the costs of residential construction have continued to rise despite the downturn in the economy and real estate values. Fewer homes have been built in the past several years, which has slowed the production of building materials on a national basis and resulted in a subsequent loss of skilled tradesmen. The building materials and labor costs to rebuild your home may cost even more due to the sudden labor and material demands if a natural disaster such as a wildfire or flood strikes your neighborhood.
Eagle County is prone to wildfire, as are many mountain communities. We have been particularly fortunate in that we have not had a significantly destructive fire in recent history. This can change with a hot, dry summer, which will leave vegetation dry and vulnerable to ignition. Should a firestorm occur in any of the heavily populated areas of our county, the respective fire departments may be overwhelmed and unable to respond to successfully protect all structures. The cost to rebuild your home to its current state is location specific and may change from year to year. The costs vary even within Eagle County, and can be very different from other in-state and out of state locations.
Get A Replacement Cost Appraisal
The best way to determine the replacement cost of one’s home is to have a local established residential contractor provide a replacement cost appraisal, keeping in mind that in the event of a natural disaster, the material suppliers may be short of materials and price them accordingly and that contractors may have to import subcontractors from other areas, which will add to the cost. Some insurance companies have their own appraisal departments and are well versed in taking the above items into consideration. Wall Street Insurance represents several insurance companies that provide these services for the homeowners as part of the coverage.
Besides determining the cost to rebuild your home to its current state in the event of a total loss, there are other factors to consider when determining the adequate amount of insurance, including the cost to replace all of your possessions and amount of liability you should carry. Any valuable articles and jewelry should be protected with a scheduled or blanket endorsement.
Noel Harris is the owner of Wall Street Insurance, Inc. in Edwards. He and his team of highly specialized agents have been serving the insurance needs of the local community and vacation owners for the past 30 years. Feel free to call Wall Street Insurance at 970-926-4900 with any of your insurance questions or send an email to email@example.com.
April 24, 2014
Question: I am going to be renting a car while traveling. Will my auto policy cover me or should I purchase coverage from the rental company?
Answer: Check with your insurance agent or company and your credit card contract to see how your coverage applies before renting a vehicle.
If you have a personal auto policy, then the liability will most likely extend to the rental car in the United States, Canada and U.S. territories. If you have comprehensive and collision coverages on your auto policy, then they too will likely extend. You may also wish to consider purchasing “supplemental liability protection” and physical damage coverage known as a “collision damage waiver” for the vehicle from the rental car agency.
The advantages of purchasing these coverages are:
• You may be able to increase your liability coverage.
• You may have no claim to turn in on your auto insurance policy which could adversely affect your premiums.
• In the event of damage, you may walk away without any additional liability provided you have a police report for the accident or pay only a deductible if you purchased an option with a deductible amount. Some credit card companies may reimburse you for the deductible amount.
If your rental car is damaged and you haven’t purchased the collision damage waiver, then you may need to pay the rental company not only for the damage to the vehicle, but also the “loss of use” and “diminished value.” For example, if you rent a $25,000 vehicle that is involved in an accident resulting in $10,000 damage, then your insurance company or the collision damage waiver will cover the repairs, perhaps subject to the collision deductible. If, instead of repairing it, the rental company sells the damaged vehicle for $8,000, then you’ll be liable for the diminished value of $7,000. That is the difference between the $10,000 from insurance and $8,000 from the buyer. Even if the vehicle is repaired, you may be required to pay for the days the vehicle was unrentable. In this scenario, you would need to pay $7,000 plus “X” dollars per day the vehicle is unable to be rented, which can add up quickly. Only a few insurance companies or credit card companies will pay for all of these expenses.
When renting a vehicle, be certain all potential drivers are listed on the rental agreement. If you’re renting for an extended amount of time, then verify with your insurance company any limitations on the number of days they’ll provide coverage for the rented vehicle.
Mexico travelers: U.S. insurance is not recognized by Mexico. You will be required to purchase the basic personal liability insurance, which is typically included in the rental agreement. The amount of liability coverage may be minimal, so it’s highly recommend purchasing extra supplemental liability insurance with the collision damage waiver.
Bryan Sergot is a personal lines agent with Wall Street Insurance Inc. in Edwards. The Wall Street Insurance team of highly specialized agents has been serving the insurance needs of the local community and vacation owners for the past 30 years. Call Wall Street Insurance at 970-926-4900 with any of your insurance questions or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
March 19, 2014
Question: Dear Noel, I received a valuable piece of jewelry for my birthday and would like to know if it is covered on my homeowner’s policy.
Answer: Happy belated birthday and thank you for the question.
Many people think that a homeowner’s policy fully protects them from a theft, damage or disappearance of jewelry. The fact is homeowner’s insurance is often not enough. Generally speaking, homeowner’s policies treat jewelry as costume items with coverage limits from $1,000 to $5,000. If policies are written in this manner, in the event of damage or theft, claims may be settled on an actual cash basis, subject to a deductible and depreciation. Accidental or “mysterious disappearance” loss is generally not covered.
The best way to insure valuable jewelry is to list each piece on a schedule. The advantage to a schedule is in the event of a loss, the settlement will generally be for the scheduled value of the item(s) without a deductible or depreciation. Coverage is often worldwide, so if the item is lost away from home, then they (it) will be covered.
Another way to cover jewelry is by a “blanket” endorsement in which there is a total (aggregate) value of coverage, instead of insuring each piece individually. Blanket endorsements may have no deductible and may not be subject to depreciation. If, for example, the blanket has a limit of $50,000, then all of the items covered by that endorsement will be covered up to that limit. Maximum per-item limits may apply.
Please contact your agent with details about the jewelry piece to make certain that your valuable articles are properly covered, whether they are to be scheduled or covered with a blanket endorsement. It is important that you review your valuables (including jewelry, works of fine art, wine collections, china, crystals, rare coins and cameras) with your agent on a regular basis as the values might have changed.
Noel Harris is the owner of Wall Street Insurance Inc. in Edwards. He and his team of highly specialized agents have been serving the insurance needs of the local community and vacation owners for the past 30 years. For more information, call Wall Street Insurance at 970-926-4900 with any of your insurance questions or send an email to email@example.com.