Skip to content

Condo or Co-op? What to know before you buy.

July 25, 2016

Are you in the market for a new place? Considering purchasing a condo or joining a co-op? There are some things you should know about co-ops and condos, how they differ from each other, and what to look out for before you sign on the dotted line. Let’s cover the differences and go over some of the pros and cons of each.

What’s the  difference between a co-op and a condo?

A Co-op isOffice worker a cooperative of shareholders, not a physical piece of property. When you purchase a co-op, you are NOT purchasing a single unit, you are purchasing shares in a corporation that owns the entire structure and all of the units within.

A Condo (or condominium) is a piece of real estate property within a larger complex. Townhomes, duplexes, apartments, and even commercial warehouses can be considered condos. Condos are bought and sold like single family homes.

Simply stated:

  • When you own a condo, you own a unit in a complex.
  • When you own a co-op, you own shares in a company which controls the entire complex.

So what does this mean for you? In terms of living in the space from day to day, the experiences in both condos and co-ops are very similar, but the aspects of ownership are different.

Living in a Co-op

Co-op owners don’t technically own an individual unit, therefore they are considered tenants (in a building they own a share of). So they don’t pay property taxes, the corporation covers taxes on the property as a whole.  Maintenance of all of the shared areas of the larger structure (parking, laundry, swimming pool, etc.) is handled by a board of elected shareholders. Prospective buyers are reviewed and approved by the board, and instead of a mortgage, buyers secure a loan to purchase their shares in the corporation.

 Living in a Condo

Condo owners are property owners. It’s like owning a single family home. You obtain a mortgage, pay property taxes on a unit, and own everything inside of the four walls. A condo owner is accountable to a Home Owners Association (HOA) of elected residents which oversees and maintains all of the shared areas of the larger structure (parking, laundry, swimming pool, etc.).

Pros and Cons: Co-ops & Condos

Pro:  Co- op Boards and Condo HOA’s provide a cohesive community with amenities, a stable quality of living, and they work to protect your property value.

Con: Boards and HOA’s can be a lot of drama and red tape. There are typically a lot of rules and regulations to abide by, how restrictive they are depends on the particular board or HOA.

*If you’re in a condo, a HOA tends to be a little more permissive than a co-op board. Buying and selling your unit is easier, and often a certain percentage of the condo owners within a complex are permitted to rent or sublet their place whereas most co-op boards prohibit renting.

Pro: As a condo owner, you own real property.

Con: As a condo owner, you own real property.

Some people think it’s the American Dream, for others it’s too many headaches.

Con: Co-op loans can be difficult to obtain and often require extraordinarily large down payments.

Both co-ops and condos can be great places to live and excellent investments, but they are two different kinds of investments so speak with a financial advisor before diving in. If you’re on the fence about living under the rule of a HOA or Board, spend plenty of time meeting with the board or HOA members, and even chat up some of the current residents to get a good feel for the vibe. Good luck and happy hunting.









June Russell

Personal Lines Account Manager


Is Driving for Uber and Lyft Right for you?

July 18, 2016

Manchester Pride Parade 2009

Driving for Uber or Lyft seems like a great gig, and it can be. But if you’re thinking of driving for a ride share service, there are a lot of things to consider before getting the Batmobile all gassed up and on the road. Here is a basic rundown on driving for a ride sharing service and a litmus test for deciding if it’s right for you.

The Basics: How Uber and Lyft work

Uber and Lyft are app based ride sharing services connecting people who need a ride with people providing rides. As a driver, you turn on the app on your phone and the system will send you pick up requests based on your current location. It’s your choice to decline or accept ride requests and riders (or passengers) pay with a credit card they have stored in the providers system.

The provider (Uber or Lyft) tracks your rides, and pays drivers via weekly electronic bank transfers. The driver’s share is typically 80% of each fare. Both riders and drivers are rated by each other on a 5 star system which helps to keep everyone using the service informed and in check.

Sound good so far? Ok, let’s see if you qualify to be a driver.

Qualifications for becoming an Uber or Lyft Driver

Driver qualifications will vary from state to state for both Uber and Lyft so be sure to check out their websites to get educated on your state, but qualifying is pretty simple. Essentially, this is what it takes:

  • You must be 21 years of age with at least 3 years driving experience
  • You must have a driver license, in-state car insurance, and a valid vehicle registration
  • You must pass a background check
  • You must have a clean driving record
  • Vehicle requirements vary from state to state but generally your vehicle must have 4 doors and be a 2001 or newer for Uber and a 2004 or newer for Lyft

Do you fit the bill? If so, let’s get down to the nitty gritty.

 How much can I make as a driver?

This is the million dollar question for most people exploring Uber or Lyft, and frankly there is no hard number for an answer. On average, drivers can make anywhere from $9-$19 per hour. I know, it’s a wide range. At the higher end you could make a living, and at the lower end you could make less than minimum wage.

So, what is it that determines where you’d fall in this range? It’s basically two things: Where you drive and when you drive.

Where you drive: Cities like Los Angeles, Boston, and New York have more people so therefore there are more people in need of rides (makes sense). Cities that are highly congested, have traffic or parking woes that deter casual driving (as in most major cities), or locations that attract a large tourist base are the most lucrative places to drive.

When you drive: There are definitely peak times for ride sharing when you land mores rides per hour, and both Uber and Lyft have a form of “surge pricing” during peak hours when drivers earn fractionally higher rates for their service. If you have flexibility and can be available during these peak times, you’ll get more rides that pay a higher rate and you’ll make more money.

*The most successful drivers will often drive to high volume areas close to tourist traps and airports, turn on their app and take fares from there.

Think you can make some money driving? That’s great. Let’s factor in your costs.

What does it cost to be a ride share driver?

Once you determine how much you can earn in fares and you think it’d be worth it, make some projections on what your costs will be to give you a true picture of what you’ll come out with at the end of the day.

Here are the primary costs associated with driving for a living:

  • Gas:  Calculate your vehicle’s actual gas mileage and then determine how much gas will cost per mile based on the price of gas in your area. If you own a hybrid, don’t bother, you’re good.
  • Vehicle maintenance and depreciation: Regular maintenance intervals will be accelerated as you rack up miles on your car. You’ll replace more tires, change more oil, and have more services done. Also, the value of your vehicle will depreciate with every mile you put on it so keep that in mind as well.
  • Insurance: You will need additional automobile insurance if you plan to drive for a ride share service. Both Uber and Lyft provide coverage for drivers while you are driving for the service but you’ll still need to report to your insurance carrier that you are driving for one of these services and ensure that you have appropriate gap coverage for the time that you spend in your car in between rides.
  • Taxes: Ride share drivers are independent contractors, meaning you do not have taxes deducted from your pay and you will have to calculate and pay taxes at the end of the year. This also means that you have to be great at record keeping. Here are some tax tips from Turbo Tax regarding driving for a ride share company. It’s also a good idea to consult with a tax professional to get an idea of what your specific tax situation will look like.

For many of you, driving for Uber or Lyft just won’t make fiscal sense, or it may be borderline, so do the research and crunch the numbers before you dive in.  For those of you who do have the right combination of time, place, and car, go ahead and take the plunge. Either Uber or Lyft could be a great money maker for you. Or you could really go for it and drive for both (it’s allowed). So…to the bat cave!

Patty Patrone-Onofrio

Patty Patrone-Onofrio                                                                                                                       Personal Lines Account Manager                                                                                     

Renting out your Manhattan co-op via VRBO or AirBnB – here’s what you need to know

July 11, 2016

NEW New York City Fashion ModelWhat happens if you rent out your Manhattan co-op on a site like Airbnb or VRBO and one of your guests gets hurt?
Who’s liable?  The short answer is: You are. Of course there are some exceptions, like if your guest gets hurt practicing back flips in the living room during their stay. In that circumstance you may have a case (but maybe you should rethink your screening process?). However, if a guest should twist their ankle on the front stoop, it’s on you. In fact, barring any gross negligence on the part of your guest (such as back flips), in most cases you as well as the landlord and or owner (should you not be those) will be held responsible for injuries to your guests.

Accidents will happen.  As a responsible host you can do your best to prevent them, but if they do occur you must have adequate and appropriate liability coverage to deal with them:

Vacation Rental Liability Coverage

Counting on your homeowner’s policy to cover an injury? Don’t. Your basic homeowners insurance does not cover vacation rental business activities, meaning it doesn’t cover people who pay to stay there or damages that occur when they do. Injuries sustained by your guests as well as damages caused to the property on the part of your guests are not covered without dedicated vacation or short term rental coverage.

Platforms like Airbnb and VRBO make insurance coverage available for hosts who rent out their property.  The policies offered typically cover guest injuries and damages. There are coverage exceptions with any policy so be sure to examine closely what a particular policy will and will not cover. You can take a look at Airbnb as an example.  It’s also a good idea to talk to your current insurance provider regarding the possibility of supplementing your homeowner’s policy.  In the growing age of online short term rentals, even if they can’t supplement your policy, I’m sure they have answers to many of your questions and can help you to get the right coverage.

Accident Prevention

Adequate liability coverage is a must have, and your goal is to avoid using it. As a vacation rental host there are many things you can do to provide the safest experience possible for your guest. Here are a few basics:

  • Ensure that your rental space is structurally and electrically sound. Have a licensed professional perform a building inspection if need be. The cost of an inspection is worth avoiding the headaches of navigating a claim in the future.
  • People can and will slip, trip and fall on just about anything so check and correct any potential trip hazards in your space. You can’t prevent clumsiness but you can minimize the potential for an accident.
  • Make sure you have a written copy of house rules available to every guest. You should also have all emergency contact numbers written out and supplied to your guests as well (Who do I call if the water heater springs a leak?).

A more exhaustive list of preventative measures and good hosting practices can be found on both the Airbnb and VRBO websites.  It pays to take the time to browse the information.

Short term rental platforms online are a great development, and they’ve made it extremely easy to list your properties to generate a significant rental income stream. The key before jumping in is to do your research and be prepared. Make sure to check out short term rental laws in your area first.  Some locales require permits and licensing and may even require you to collect and remit certain taxes, so get legal. Ensure that your rental space is safe for your guests and set them up to handle emergencies. And most importantly, get adequate and appropriate liability coverage…so then you can rent to the Flying Franzini Brothers with total peace of mind.

Linda Robertson

Linda Robertson
Platinum Accounts Executive



Are Pests taking over your home?

July 4, 2016

House breaker

There’s nothing worse than walking into the kitchen to grab a snack and catching a little brown flash scurrying across the kitchen floor. What was that?? Or worse, you find “remnants” of rodents or insects in, on, or under your furniture and in your cabinets.  Gross.

Pests are a very common problem in many homes. It’s a big world and we have to share it with all of earth’s creatures, but we don’t have to share it under our own roof.

There are a couple of different options when pest proofing your home. You can take the non-toxic route to ward off your creepy little friends or you can go with an all out chemical assault in a mission to eradicate your unwanted visitors.

Pest Control Services and Store Bought Chemicals

A pest control service like Orkin or Terminix can be very simple and effective in removing most of the creepy, the crawly, and the furry. Pest control companies have a variety of services including regular inspections and treatments. They typically use chemicals that are toxic to humans and pets so when using a pest control service be sure to ask about the chemicals they use and any potentially harmful effects those chemicals may cause.

There are also many over the counter chemicals that you can purchase and apply yourself. When purchasing pest control chemicals, thoroughly read the labels and warnings on the containers. These chemicals can be hazardous to your health as well as the health and well being of children and pets so follow the directions strictly and heed the warnings outlined by the manufacturer.

If you’re worried about the potentially harmful effects of chemicals, there are alternative non-toxic means by which to rid your home of the uninvited.

Non-Toxic Solutions for Common Household Pests

Ants and Cockroaches:  We appreciate your dedication to teamwork ants, just go do it somewhere else. Cockroaches, you’re gross and just not welcome. Here’s how to handle these insects:

  • Remove attractants: Keep counters and floors free from crumbs and sticky spots. Cover food containers and don’t leave food encrusted dishes in the sink. Seal your trash, secure water leaks, and don’t leave standing water around like dishes soaking in the sink (ants and roaches love a pool party)
  • Ants: Trace the ants to their point of entry into your home. Place any of the following at that point; Sliced cucumber (yes, ants hate them), bags of mint tea, cayenne pepper, lemon juice, citrus oil, cinnamon, or coffee grounds. All will act as a natural deterrent to the ant army
  • Cockroaches: Use natural deterrents in affected areas such as; Sliced cucumber (yep, roaches hate ‘em too), bay leaves, or garlic cloves. Catnip is also a safe natural roach repellent. Place satchels of catnip in affected areas or simmer some catnip in water, place in a spray bottle and spray around affected areas. Don’t do this if you have a cat, unless you want a perpetually drunk feline staggering around the house
  • Place non-toxic traps in affected areas
  • Keep a spray bottle with soapy water handy and spray the stragglers that get by the deterrents
  • Use Diatomaceous Earth: Say what? Tough to say but even tougher on insects and safe for humans. Check out Diatomaceous Earth and other non-toxic insect control products here

Mice and Rats: Great subjects for a Disney feature film, but you don’t want them starring in a movie that takes place under your kitchen sink. Here’s how to evict, and keep out the rodents:

  • Remove attractants: Keep your kitchen, bathroom, and floors clean and free from food crumbs. Seal your trash, secure water leaks, and don’t leave standing water around like dishes soaking in the sink (A few drops of water are an oasis to rodents)
  • Seal up cracks and holes in walls, baseboards, under cabinets and anywhere else in the home. Mice especially can squeeze through the tiniest of gaps and if they don’t fit, they will chew their way in, so shut them down. You can stuff steel wool in any gaps that you find to act as a blockade (rodents can’t chew through steel wool)
  • Clear wood piles and trim the grass around the house. Wood piles and tall grass are a great place for rodents to hang out and conspire
  • Place traps near baseboards and suspected points of entry. Frankly, some traps are more humane than others so if that’s a concern for you, do the research on rodent traps

Raccoons and other small mammals: So cute in videos on YouTube, but not so cute when they move into your attic and chew through everything in sight. Here’s how to manage:

  • Trim back tree limbs near the house: Raccoons and other mammals will use branches as a bridge to your roof and will shimmy through open gaps or come down your chimney like the Grinch Who Stole Christmas
  • Keep outdoor trash cans sealed so as not to provide an open buffet for mammals. Use Bungee cords to hold down the lids if need be
  • Seal any openings around the house, especially on the roof
  • Deploy a motion activated high frequency sound wave device to deter mammals. Sounds high tech, but it’s really not, and it’s rather affordable and super effective. The cost is anywhere from $30 to $100 and well worth the money. Check out a popular one of these animal deterrent devices at The Home Depot
  • If raccoons or other small mammals have already taken up residence in your home. It can be difficult and dangerous to remove them. In that case, it’s best to call a professional trapper or pest control company to handle the extraction.

When choosing a pest control solution keep in mind that all of earth’s creatures are beautiful and amazing in their own right. Fight the good fight, respect that they do what they do, but keep them off the couch and out of the kitchen. Good luck.


Laurie Fisher
Personal Lines Account Manager

Taking the Headache Out of Home Renovations: Tips to Minimize Risks

June 26, 2016

structural renovjpgHome renovations are an exciting opportunity to make your home your own. Whether you’re adding a media room or finally making over that master suite and walk-in closet, it allows you to personalize your space. However, home renovations can also bring up challenges and unforeseen risks that homeowners need to prepare for, especially when undertaking a major renovation or working on a custom home.

While homeowners dot their i’s and cross their t’s when it comes to ensuring they have financing for their project, they often fail to think about the risks associated with a major home renovation. This oversight can lead to them unknowingly exposing themselves to things like lawsuits, uninsured losses and even safety threats.

So how can you make sure you’re covered for any home renovation risks that may arise before a shovel hits the dirt? Make sure you’re prepared with these four tips:

1)     Do Your (Contractor) Homework: Take your time choosing the right contractor and ask a large and diverse audience for their recommendations – from your financial planner to your real estate agent to friends and family. Also look for a contractor that has done work similar to your desired renovation. Once you’ve narrowed it down, request referrals for other clients the contractor worked with that you can speak to and potentially even see their work in person, look at online reviews and check with the Better Business Bureau to ensure they are reputable. Also request their license number and verify their licensing status with state licensing agencies. You can also conduct professional background checks of any contractors and subcontractors.Announcements

2)      Get It in Writing: Make sure you get a proposed contract from the contractor that covers all aspects of the renovation, from the scope of the work, projected costs, and materials that will be utilized to the job site safety responsibility (which should always be on the contractor) to the timing, terms of payment, and procedures to address sign-off. Ensure everything has been though through – from how unexpected costs will be addressed to whether the removal of old materials and debris is being handled by the contractor – and include it in the contract.

3)     Ensure You’re Covered: Not only do you need to make sure you’re covered before beginning a renovation, from liability coverage in case a worker is injured on your property to property damage or theft, but you need to also ensure your contractor and any subcontractors are bonded and have adequate insurance coverage. Ask for your contractor’s insurance certificate and contact their carrier to verify they have general liability and workers’ compensation insurance coverage. Keep in mind that custom homes can pose unique challenges because their value often exceeds the amount of coverage contractors carry. Contact your insurance agent to discuss your renovation and go through your coverage.

4)     Protect Yourself: Ask your contractor for a full list of the workers that will be in and out of your home. Also make sure that you take an inventory of your personal possessions prior to beginning any work and ensure any sensitive information, like family members’ social security numbers or financial information, is locked away and protected.Also limit access to any computers or electronic devices and make sure everything is password protected, including your Wi-Fi network.

With the right preparation, a home renovation can transform your house into your dream home! Make sure you’re prepared to take the stress and risk out of home renovations.

Cherie Pare


Cherie Pare

Personal Lines Account Manager


Keeping Construction Workers safe in the Summer Heat

June 20, 2016

Dangerous-Job-000045581000_MediumI don’t know about you, but I’ve never envied roofers in the summer.  It’s hard work to begin with but add in the heat factor and it becomes extremely dangerous.  Best in class companies have adopted OSHA standards for protecting their workers.  OSHA’s campaign to “Prevent heat illness in outdoor workers” advocates Water. Rest. Shade. This campaign is a great way to ensure your workers not only stay safe but also, are far more effective and efficient during their workday.

What does “heat illness” look like?

The human body cools itself by sweating.  During very hot weather especially when the humidity is high as well – sweating isn’t sufficient to cool down the body. When the core temperature rises to dangerous levels, illness can happen.  It can start with heat rash and cramps and elevate to heat exhaustion or heat stroke.  Heat stroke can be deadly and requires immediate attention

A few ounces (literally) of prevention:

As with any safety program, employers should have a complete Heat Illness Prevention program including guidelines, training, and “watch dogs” for their teams.

What should employers provide to workers at risk?  Remember:  Water. Rest. Shade.

  • Frequent Water Breaks and access to a continual supply of cool water. Encourage drinking water every 15 minutes to stay hydrated.
  • Frequent Rest Breaks. The heat and humidity are very draining – especially for those not used to it, or the elderly.  Taking timed and mandatory breaks help avoid illness.
  • Wear the right clothing. Loose fitting clothing that’s breathable, hats and sunglasses.
  • Access to shade. This can include a building, a tent, a lean to, or some big old maple trees – someplace to get out of the sun.
  • Acclimation – workers need to build up a tolerance for working in the heat. Be conscience of this and offer more breaks and shade to those who have been off for a week or more or for those new to the job.  These are your MOST vulnerable workers!
  • Watch Dogs – Know the symptoms of Heat Illness and monitor your team regularly. Have a watch dog at each site to ensure Water. Rest. Shade is happening.
  • Emergency plan. Heat illness WILL happen to someone on your team – have an emergency game plan in place.

Water. Rest. Shade.  OSHA’s mantra for avoiding heat related illnesses is one that should be shared amongst your team.  Let’s keep those roofers cool and safe this summer!


Nancy Swenson

Commercial Lines Account Manager

Tractor Rollovers – one of the deadliest Farm hazards

June 13, 2016

indiana-734015Farming and Agribusiness has changed dramatically over the past century.  Many tasks once done by human hands are now done by large equipment.  Even though manufacturers of this equipment strive to ensure their products are safe by installing safety guards, warning labels and other stop gaps – farming presents many dangers.  Often times, injuries occur because of shortcuts taken, ignoring warning signs, and simply not following safety protocols.  Human error accounts for the majority of injuries.

According to the US Bureau of Labor statistics, US Department of Labor (2012), Agriculture has the highest fatal work injury rate (24.4 per 100,000 full time workers) of all industries.  Among specific occupations, farmers ranked 7th in 2011 for fatal work injuries. Farmers are only surpassed by professional commercial truck drivers. With all the hazards to be found on a farm, accidents caused by tractor related incidents are the leading cause of fatalities – over 300 a year.

Acadia Insurance offers this insight…

Since the largest contributor to tractor deaths is roll-overs, why are “all” tractors not equipped with the ROPS (Roll Over Protective Structure) system? There are several reasons:

  • Since 1976, OSHA required that all “employee – operated” tractors be equipped with ROPS and seat belts. But this does not apply to family members on family farms;
  • The standard has not been enforced in 47 of the 50 states;
  • Many older tractors have not been retrofitted, either due to cost or perceived inconvenience.

How can a farmer minimize the risk of tractor accidents? Here is a list of actions that can have a positive impact on safety:

  • Know how to operate the tractor safely – the experienced farmer likely knows this. However, it is important to focus on new operators. On a large, level yard or field, with ample space to operate and without any equipment attached
  • Preventive Maintenance – a tractor in good repair is a safer tractor. Check tire condition and inflation – make sure all fluids are up to standards and be ABSOLUTELY sure all protective shields are in place
  • Check what you are wearing: good fitting clothes, nothing loose or bulky that can get caught in moving parts. Shoes with non-slip soles are important. Long hair should be safely under a hat to avoid getting loose hair caught in machinery.
  • Safe Refueling: Use the same common sense as you would fueling your car at a gas station – engine off, eliminate any static electricity, refuel outside – no smoking and no cell phone usage.
  • Have a first aid kit and at least one 5 pound ABC dry chemical extinguisher on board.
  • Keep the Power-Takeoff (PTO) shaft guarded with the shields and guard that came with the tractor. If they are lost or broken replace them. It may save you an arm or a leg!
  • Safety on Public Roads – Use all required and available safety devices and driving skills when operating tractors on public roads. The risk is high! Roll-over protection, safety hitch, SMV emblem, rear-view mirrors, signal lights, hand signals, clearance lights and/or reflectors are all aids to safety on the roadways.

Other Basic Safety Practices

No extra riders. And just as important, do not ask to be an extra rider. If the tractor has a cab with seating for two – OK and use the seat belts!

Stuck in a hole – it is probably best to get help.

Hitch equipment only to the drawbar.

Keep away from ditches and embankment edges. If a piece of attached equipment goes over, the tractor will likely follow.

When using a loader – move and turn slowly, keep load low when moving, add rear weights, keep wheels wide and lower bucket to ground when parking or servicing.

Drive at a safe speed.

Watch for rocks, stumps, holes, slopes and hillsides. Keep wheels wide. Be sure you know how to maneuver up and down hills. The majority of overturns happen on slopes and hills.

The Human Factor – Knowing what to do and how to do it goes a long way to ensure safe tractor operation. Another vital factor is you, the operator. It is important to be in good physical and emotional condition when you are operating a tractor. If you are ill, tired, angry, emotionally upset, or if your mind is on something else, you could make a fatal mistake.

At Founders Insurance Agency, we are strong supporters of our local farmers and we want them to be safe! Please be respectful of dangerous farm equipment and for our non-farming friends – give generous room to tractors on our highways and local roadways.


Adam Winters

Commercial Lines Account Manager

%d bloggers like this: