Question: What is Actual Cash Value vs. Replacement Cost?

Actual Cash Value is a method of valuation that recognizes the reduction of value of property as it gets older and becomes subject to wear and tear. Actual Cash Value is calculated by taking the current replacement cost and subtracting depreciation.

Replacement cost is the cost to replace damaged property with like kind and quality at today’s price, without any deduction for depreciation. Following a loss, it may provide the insured a settlement in excess of the property’s actual cash value.

Here is a quick claim scenario: You have a fire in your home and you made a claim to your insurance company and your deductible has been paid. You are now replacing your damaged furnishings, including the $1000 sofa your purchased 5 years ago. If you have actual cash value, the company might give you $500 because that is the actual cost of that particular sofa today. If you have replacement cost coverage, the company will pay $1,200 because that is what it would cost to buy a similar sofa today.

What kind of coverage do you have on your South Carolina Home Insurance?


Is Your Car a Target for a Thief?

Based on recent news, luxury autos are still a hot target for car theives. With all the technology made available to everyone and their brother, smart thieves have found ways to outsmart even the best anti-theft technology for even the most luxurious models. Why are theives still targeting the higher value vehicles? Well, because they think the nicer ones are worth the effort.
In 1991, a peak year for vehicle thefts, the National Insurance Crime bureau noted that there were 1.66 million thefts. Since that year, vehicle thefts have dropped to nearly half of what it was in that year.

How are they getting past even the best technology out there? Essentially, the thieves are hacking the cars computers, stealing codes and tricking the device into opening the doors and even starting the engine.

How can you make sure you aren’t the next victim?

  • As always, be aware of your surroundings. Always lock your car the second you get out.
  • It is best to park your vehicle yourself rather than giving your keys to a valet or parking lot attendant
  • Keep your keys in a semi-secure spot in your house, not right by the door where they could be easily taken
  • Keep your car parked in your garage as a line of defense
  • Don’t leave your car running and unattended, even just for a couple seconds. Being in a small town, we sometimes forget that there is crime around us.

Following these tips to ensure that you won’t have to put in a claim in on your South Carolina Auto Insurance!

5 of the Most Common Causes of Electrical Fires

Due to the excessive use of heating appliances and decorative lights during the months of December and January, electrical fires are very serious problems. In fact, the US Fire Administration states that there are 28,600 electrical fires a year, causing $1.1 billion in property damage and loss.

Here are 5 ways to prevent electrical fires not only during those months, but throughout the year.

  1. Keep an eye on old, outdated appliances and faulty electrical outlets. If you notice a worn or frayed cord, replace it! Floors, curtains, and rugs can catch on fire due to the heat it projects. Old receptacles and switches could also ignite.
  2. Replace that outdated wiring. If a home is over 20 years old, increased amounts of electrical appliances will most likely be too difficult to handle. Homes built back then weren’t made for all the technological advancements we have today!
  3. Avoid the misusage of extension cords. Try plugging appliances directly into and outlet and not into an extension cord for an extended period of time. Use them only as a temporary measure.
  4. Space Heaters! Since they are portable, they are more than likely put too close to materials that can easily catch fire such as curtains, clothing, beds, couches, rugs and chairs. Try using the radiator-type rather than space heaters with coils, they are less likely to ignite.
  5. Watch the wattage you are using for certain lamps and light fixtures. Installing a bulb with a wattage that is too high can easily cause electrical fires. Also keep cloth or paper away from the lampshade.

Many South Carolina home insurance carriers request electrical updates on older homes. Unsure how susceptible your home is to an electrical fire?  It wouldn’t hurt to have an electrician over to evaluate your electric.

Home Buying Tip: Keeping Insurance Affordable with Wind Mitigation

Home buying is less than overwhelming – but we are here to help, at least when it has to do with South Carolina home insurance. If you are searching for a home and looking to keep your insurance premium affordable we have a suggestion: before purchasing a home, determine if the home has any construction enhancements which make your home eligible for wind mitigation credits.

If you are coming from an area that does not have coastal exposure, you probably have not heard of wind mitigation, so here is a quick run down:

What is wind mitigation? Basically, wind mitigation means the steps that are taken to make the home more resistant to hurricane and high-wind damage. A strong home has the necessary items to protect for this kind of damage. Fewer damages result in lower or fewer insurance claims and will ultimately reduce the insurance premium.

How do I know if a home has wind mitigation? You can ask your real estate agent if the home has any wind mitigation features or if there has been a wind mitigation inspection completed by the previous homeowner. If you are really interested in the home, you could contact a licensed contractor and ask them to perform a wind mitigation inspection for a fee.

What should you look for in terms of wind mitigation?

  • Exterior wall opening protection: hurricane-rated window shutters and impact resistant windows
  • Exterior doors: hurricane-rated garage door rather than a standard garage door
  • Strength of your roof deck attachment: type of nails and/or longer nails that will help prevent shingle and roof plywood from being blown off in a hurricane
  • Roof Cover: Having thicker and stronger hurricane-resistant roof shingles, attached with properly sized and properly applied roofing nails to reduce the chance of your roof shingles blowing off in a hurricane. A newer roof is also helpful!
  • Braced gable-ends in the roof framing: Usually done inside the attic to decrease chances that your roof will collapse under hurricane wind
  • Reinforcement of roof-to-wall connection: metal tie-down straps that attach roof rafters to wall studs to decrease chances that all or a portion of your roof will lift off of your house during a hurricane

Not only do these steps help you gain a lower insurance premium, but they also help in other areas. South Carolina Department of Insurance states that the Homeowners who select to replace their windows with impact resistance systems and hurricane shutters have reported savings up to 29% in their energy costs.

13 Fire Safety Tips

As we slip into the fall months where we all enjoy the scent of fall candles burning in our homes and the holidays where we use decorative lights, it brings up the topic of fire safety. Whether the fire is from leaving that great smelling candle unattended or from a short in an electrical outlet that your Christmas lights are plugged into, this is the season when house fires increase. it is important that all household members are educated in fire prevention and safety.

As adults, we have been reminded of these things our whole lives, which is why we are responsible for passing along the information and educating the children around us. Here are a few topics you can discuss with others:

  1. Smoke alarms should be installed throughout the home including the kitchen, basement, and every bedroom and outside sleeping area.
  2. Never remove or disable smoke alarms.
  3. Test smoke alarms at least once per month by pushing the test button.
  4. Interconnect smoke alarms so if one sounds, they all do.
  5. If smoke alarms don’t work, replace the correct size battery or the entire smoke alarm unit.
  6. Don’t play with fire.
  7. Don’t leave cooking items or clothing irons unattended.
  8. Place a portable ladder in each second floor room.
  9. Have an updated, emergency first aid kit.
  10. Develop a family plan and conduct a home “Fire Drill” at least twice a year.
  11. Check fire extinguishers for expiration and replace as needed.
  12. Handle gasoline or propane-powered equipment cautiously.
  13. Install carbon monoxide detectors.

Thank you to Paul Davis Restoration & Remodeling for these great tips!

6 Items NOT included on most Homeowners Insurance Policies

We know that insurance is hard to understand, even the word itself a mouthful. That is why we try to make things a little easier. Below are 6 things that are not included on most South Carolina Insurance Policies:

1. FLOODING :  Flood is not covered by your homeowner’s policy. You must have a separate policy in order to be covered from a loss caused from rising surface water occurring outside your home. You should strongly consider purchasing flood insurance if you live next you any type of body of water, even if it’s an empty creek. Make sure to check with your insurance agent if you are in a flood zone or not. If you are in a flood zone with a high risk, you will be required to purchase flood insurance. No matter where you’re at, it’s a good idea to purchase a flood insurance policy.

2. TERMITES/RODENTS :  None of these pesky little bothers are covered. This also includes damage done by squirrels, mice, rats, and you get the picture. Many insurance carriers believe it is the owner of the homes’ responsibility to maintain these little problems.

3. YOUR PETS :  Many companies provide liability coverage in case your dog causes injury to another person and you happen to get sued. However, if he/she decides to turn every pair of shoes into a chew toy as well as the couch and dining room chair, your policy will not pay to have these items replaced.

4. FOUNDATION SETTLING/CRACKS :   If there is any cracking, settling, earth movement or shift, your dwelling and foundation are not covered and this is a homeowner’s policy exclusion.

5. POWER SURGE :  Fire, lightening and wind losses are covered, but if there is a power surge and all your appliances get fried, power surge is excluded from your policy. However, if lightning is the cause, you’re safe!

6. GENERAL WEAR/TEAR OR MANUFACTURERS DEFECTS :  When your 7 year old refrigerator stops working, insurance companies think that this is something you should notice needs looked after or replaced. Cracks in your entry-way tile and bowed wood flooring are general wear and tear insurance companies think you should keep an eye out for and are responsible for replacing.

Affordable Care Act Leads to Alternative Group Health Plans

The complexity of the new health care laws and their increasing cost potential have many employers looking for a better way to purchase their health insurance. The Covenant Services Group, Atlanta Georgia has designed a program which provides greater latitude for employers in designing their coverage.

Covenant Services will be providing seminars in Savannah, Georgia and Bluffton, South Carolina on September 24th and 25th respectively to present the plan design to local employers. This new program targets employers from 10-200 employees, and brings to this size group some of the flexibilities that employers much larger have enjoyed for years.  The only method to truly control group health insurance cost is to educate employees not only on healthy habits but how to acquire treatment when it is necessary. For decades employers have utilized safety practices in their business to control workers compensation and auto claims, the new program design by Covenant Services Group is taking that same mindset in assisting employers to control health care costs.

The seminars are being sponsored jointly by the Covenant Services Group and Beacon Insurance Group.

If you would like to attend one of the two seminars, please RSVP here: Register for Seminar

Guest Blog: Ken Gort Talks Emergency Permitting on Hilton Head Island; Part II

Click Here to Read Part I

Here are a few examples of how I have helped over 100 of your island neighbors in securing their Emergency Permit and protecting their properties:

Fresh Market Shoppes on Wm. Hilton Parkway: The EP allows them to reconstruct 45 parking spaces currently located in the buffer that extends 50′ into the property from the R.O.W. per the latest Land Management Ordinance design standards. The potential loss of these spaces would have resulted in the retail shopping mall to have been approved to rebuild 5000-6000 fewer sf of rental space. The LMO determines the amount of allowable retail space based upon the number of parking spaces provided. Secondly, their primary property identification signage is nonconforming in both size and location. However it can be rebuild as it exists today due to the EP.

The Sokol Residence at 23 Driftwood Lane in North Forest Beach: Their home was built in the early 1800’s on an oceanfront lot. They currently have nonconforming buffer and setback issues on all 4 sides of the property. They also exceed the amount of allowable impervious surface area which includes roofs, drives, parking, decks and pool. The EP granted even allows them to rebuild a portion of the deck that extends beyond their property line into the South Carolina public beach strand.

The Hilton Head Boathouse Restaurant and Marina on Wild Horse Road: This property has significant nonconforming setback and buffer from the SC Coastal Council critical line along the wetlands. The property also has impervious surface, on site storm water detention and parking non conformities that would render the property impossible to be developed under the current LMO for its present mixed use.

In addition to securing Emergency Permits, Digital Docs also offers a service called “documenting what’s valuable”. We will visit your business and/or home to digitally photograph all your possessions. The fee for our standard package is $595. The services and product includes on site interior digital photography, all the photographs will be displayed in a presentation album with space available for the owner to identify and describe each item.

I can be contacted by email or by phone 843-384-6566 to answer your questions and provide a quotation of the fee to secure an Emergency Permit for your property.

Thank You,

Kenneth L. Gort, Architect, Owner of Digital Docs




Ken’s Interview with SouthCarolinaHomes: What Influences Your Home Insurance Policy?

South Carolina Homes reached out to us requesting an interview to discuss what concepts influence your South Carolina home insurance policy. Check out Ken’s quick interview here:

Check out my interview, What Influences Your Home Insurance Policy on South Carolina Homes For Sale, one of the top sites for South Carolina real estate, including Johns Island, SC homes for sale. South Carolina Homes For Sale also services North Carolina real estate and Georgia real estate.

Guest Blog: Ken Gort, Architect, Talks Emergency Permitting on Hilton Head Island; Part I

Click Here for Part II

Hopefully, a catastrophic weather event will never visit Hilton Head Island. Imagine not being allowed to rebuild your property as it previously existed? This is likely the case with your property as changes to the local codes and ordinances have established new and more restrictive design standards.

The Town of Hilton Head Island’s Land Management Ordinance (LMO) offers a pre-disaster recovery procedure called Emergency Permitting. This procedure allows the rebuilding of existing homes and businesses including all their non conforming features “to a state or condition that existed prior to the disaster without the necessity of a full review….under the Land Management Ordinance”. A non-conforming property feature may be its use, building size, setbacks, a deck, signage, buffers, parking, pool, etc. All new vertical construction must comply with current building codes and FEMA regulations.

Digital Docs Emergency Permitting services have been successfully performed by our licensed professionals with over 25 years of land planning, building design and construction experience on over 100 Hilton Head Island properties. We are very familiar with the LMO requirements and the town staff administering the procedure. We will efficiently and accurately assemble the required drawings and documentation to protect your property.

Features & Benefits of an Emergency Permit:

  • Right to rebuild all structures to pre disaster conditions
  • Grandfather all non conforming site and building features
  • Duplication of physical features necessary for business success
  • Transferable with the sale of the property
  • Property Value includes land plus rights to rebuild structures
  • Commence Design and Drawings immediately
  • Accurate record for an insurance claim and settlement
  • There is no cost if we are unsuccessful in securing an Emergency Permit. The procedure takes about 2 weeks.

Act now before a disaster to avoid several months of LMO approval delays, tens of thousands of dollars in fees and costs and the uncertainties involving the increasingly more restrictive Land Management Ordinance.

I can be contacted by email or by phone 843-384-6566 to answer your questions and provide a quotation of the fee to secure an Emergency Permit for your property.

Thank You,

Kenneth L. Gort, Architect, Owner of Digital Docs

Be sure to look out for Ken’s next guest blog where he shares the other service that he offers, and a few examples of some residential and commercial properties that have benefitted from the feature of an Emergency Permit.