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When a Homeowners Policy Increases

Should You Stay or Jump?

Jim and his wife Nancy just celebrated their second year in a beautiful new home. The celebration didn’t last long, however, when the couple discovered their homeowners policy increased 35% versus the previous year! Even worse, the rate hike occurred without any claim activity and very little credit changes.

Maybe you’ve also felt Jim’s pain. It’s an all too common experience for homeowners in the Lone Star state.

What Causes Home Insurance Rates to Increase?

Understand that there are many factors leading to a policy increase. Many reasons for an increase don’t seem obvious on the surface and are sometimes even beyond your control.

New homeowners like Jim and Nancy are often offered significant policy discounts that simply don’t carry over into the next year.

Age of Home & Roof

Houses also age and older homes can have more frequent and expensive claims. Think of it a bit like driving a new car off the lot. Everyone knows the moment you purchase a new car and drive home, the value decreases. Wear and tear, miles, teenagers, etc. all cause us to see a depreciation with our vehicles. Your home is no different. Older homes, for example, have older roofs that tend to be more susceptible to leaks. Your home’s roof design and whether it has solar panels can even impact your policy amount.

Changes to Home & Property

Beyond age, your policy may be impacted by any changes you make that increase the chance of personal injury or damage to your home. Remember, the riskier a person or property is to insure, the higher the price tag for insurance premiums.trees overgrown house

Have you installed a new swimming pool? Added a new dog such as a Pitbull breed to the family? Have you added a trampoline or treehouse to your backyard? All of these reasons can lead to higher premiums. While your first instinct might be to not tell your insurance carrier, realize the risks involved. If someone were to accidentally drown or get injured by your dog, lawsuits are likely, and the claims could be denied.

Insurance inspectors will also be onsite after filing a claim. While they are determining damage and payout, an overgrown tree or old shed in the backyard could be a red flag for your insurance company. Those new risks would be reported, leading to a higher premium.

What about a new balcony or winding staircase? If they increase the chance of falls inside the home, they’re serious threats — in 2015, the total medical costs for falls totaled more than $50 billion according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In addition to price hikes, changes can also lead to policy cancellations. We wrote an article a few years back that covers the absurd and odd reasons for home policy cancellations.

Natural Disasters in Texashail damage

Additionally, Mother Nature has a large impact on premiums. In 2017, Hurricane Harvey devastated much of the Texas Gulf Coast, causing $125 billion in damage. Hail storms in Texas are becoming more frequent and a 2018 storm in North Texas caused $1 billion in damage to insured homes, businesses and automobiles.

When a natural disaster affects others in Lubbock, West Texas or even elsewhere in the state, premiums can increase for everyone. Texas has one of the highest home insurance rates in the country in part due to high losses from storms.

When to Be Concerned About Rate Increases

So now that you understand a bit about what can cause your homeowners policy to increase, what exactly can you do about it?

First, realize rate hikes of 15 – 20% per year for a home policy renewal are nothing to be too alarmed about. It’s a fact of life: most carriers increase rates over time.

Rate hikes of 50% or more are unusual and absolutely mean it’s time to take action. Perhaps you’ve been with your carrier for years and don’t know where to start?

Work with an Independent Agent

Your first step is finding a licensed independent agent in Texas who can help review your policy. An agent can, for example, review your deductible — the amount of money you pay before insurance kicks in — and help reduce your overall premium.

Your agent may also discuss strategies for bundling your homeowner’s insurance with your vehicle insurance or adding an umbrella policy, for example. Some companies offer discounts anywhere from 5 – 15% or more if you buy both types of coverage, which adds up to significant savings!

Move to a new carrier and unlock discounts that ultimately lower your premium. However, moving too often can be a red flag and prevent you from being eligible with some carriers. A great agent will assess your situation and advise on whether to stay or leave carriers.

Most important: do your research and ask plenty of questions. Check out this handy guide to help you understand what you need to know when it comes to purchasing homeowners insurance. If you have any questions or want to learn how one of our qualified, licensed and independent agents can help you secure the best homeowners policy at the best price, contact us today.

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Open Enrollment Changes for 2019: What You Need to Know

On a chilly Washington D.C. evening in December 2017, legislators met to decide the fate of millions of Americans. The mantra “repeal and replace” reverberated across the country since the earliest days of the Trump presidency. And now, folks from both sides of the aisle still had no idea what was about to happen…

Fast forward to present day and the outcome of the lawmaker’s decision that day in December didn’t actually “repeal” or “replace” much of anything. And while the total number of insurers in Texas fell from 10 to 8, not much has drastically changed for Lubbock and neighboring counties versus last year.

Here’s what you need to know for 2019 open enrollment:

Penalties Removed (Mostly)

While the individual mandate technically remains firmly in place for 2018 and 2019, the penalty associated with it has changed.

What does this mean to you?

Under current law, if you don’t have minimum insurance coverage (and aren’t exempt) you could owe a tax penalty for the time you’ve been uninsured. The 2019 changes however, remove the tax penalty if you didn’t enroll in minimum essential coverage.

So for 2019 depending on your healthcare needs and the amount you can afford, you can choose an insurance plan or enroll in alternative coverage like short-term health insurance (e.g., a hospital plan) and avoid owing a tax penalty. Depending on your age you can also still apply for “catastrophic” coverage to potentially reduce your monthly premiums.

Remember, without any health insurance you’re playing Russian roulette with your future and could end up paying medical bills for the rest of your life. Additionally, if you choose to go without health insurance in order to save money, realize you will still lose out on a tax credit applied to federal income tax.

Speaking of tax credits, you may qualify for a premium tax credit that lowers your monthly insurance bill, and creates extra savings on any out-of-pocket expenses like deductibles and copayments. These plans are offered by private insurance companies with a range of prices and features. Get in touch with an insurance agent to learn about your options before deciding if you can’t afford health insurance.

Be aware business penalties for group health insurance still apply. If you’re a business owner with 50 or more full-time employees (fte) and you do not offer coverage to at least 95% of your workforce, you still face penalties in 2019. For example, if you have 65 FTE employees, don’t offer coverage, and at least one employee gets coverage in the exchange with a premium subsidy, you may owe a $74,240 penalty for 2018. The calculation is: (65-30) x $2,320 = $74,240. Therefore, it’s essential you have a group health insurance plan in place.

Premium Changes

After years of continuous rate increases, one Lubbock county insurer has decided to change course and cut rates by about 6% for two of their ACA individual plans. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas executives believe both market stability and knowing more about policyholders should decrease rates in 2019.

Across the rest of the state, other insurance providers have significantly reduced their rate hikes for 2019. The proposed average increase statewide in Texas is 3.8%, down from a 41% average increase last year among benchmark plans on the exchange.

What’s Next

Mark your calendar: the 2019 Open Enrollment Period runs from Thursday, November 1, 2018, to Saturday, December 15, 2018.

In Lubbock county, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas and First Care will continue offering plans in 2019. Nearby counties Cochran and Bailey will continue with just one option, however, through Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas.

If it’s been awhile since you’ve been to the doctor, schedule a wellness exam to see if your healthcare needs might need to change for 2019. Also think about why you may dislike or like your existing coverage (if you have any) and what is important to you going into next year.

Remember, if you don’t act by December 15, you can’t get 2019 health insurance coverage unless you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period. If you have any questions about your health insurance and want to learn about all of your available options, contact a licensed agent today.

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Why You Should Avoid Riding Scooters in Texas

By now, you’ve probably seen or heard scooters zooming around streets and sidewalks downtown. The most visible e-scooter startup, Bird, is now valued at close to a billion dollars and is expanding into major metro areas across the entire United States. Scooter rental companies are especially popular on college campuses.

Despite their popularity, e-scooters are not without controversy among motorists, pedestrians, insurance agencies, and attorneys. There are very few statewide regulations in place for e-scooters. Instead, at the local level, cities are grappling with how to handle scooter rental providers. Some have even banned the service and ordered scooter rideshare operators to cease and desist!

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Hettler Insurance Agency Adds 8th Carrier for Auto Insurance

Agency is Authorized to Sell Mercury Insurance as an Independent Agent

We are pleased to announce HIA is able to quote Mercury Insurance in Texas for all drivers. This brings our total number of carriers to eight including Progressive, Safeco, Travelers and more!

As an independent agency, Hettler allows for comparison shopping for auto insurance. Why settle for a single policy from one carrier, when you can receive multiple quotes?

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A Guide to Auto Insurance with Mario Kart

LakituWhen Lakitu counts down the start of every Mario Kart race, players don’t know if they’re in for rainbows, banana peels or haunted planks. Driving in real life is just as unpredictable as Mario Kart, although with bigger consequences.

Whether you’re a student about to get your driver’s license or a parent that remembers the original Super Mario Kart on SNES, let us guide you on auto insurance with multiple references to the iconic game.

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Wildfire Season in West Texas

Wildfire Risk & Getting Insurance

Texas is second only to California as the state most at risk for wildfire, according to analytics company CoreLogic. At least 715,300 Texas residences are at high or extreme risk of wildfire.

A dry environment goes hand in hand with wildfire. West Texas and the Panhandle are receiving less rainfall each year, earning long term drought status. There is a high risk of wildfire affecting Lubbock and surrounding communities during certain months of the year.

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Insurance for House Flippers

When you’re buying a house to flip or completely do a gut job, you have different insurance concerns than a house you buy to live in long-term. Many investors forget about the insurance component of a deal when they’re in the heat of the moment and focused on the potential of the property. Whoa, slow down. When is the best time to call your insurer? Before you sign the paperwork!

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Consider This When Buying a House to Flip in Texas

TV shows make flipping houses look fun and easy. Can you really make a lot of money doing this? Yes, it is possible. But only if you have the right skills, knowledge and timing. Choose the wrong fixer upper, and you could lose your entire investment.

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The Future of Auto Insurance

Twenty years ago, insurers could never have predicted today’s landscape. The rise of the internet, adoption of electric cars and the prospect of more and more data are becoming a reality. How will changes under the hood and technology affect auto insurance in the future?

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Company Information

Hettler Insurance Agency
Ron Hettler

4432 S Loop 289
Lubbock, TX 79414

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