Monthly Archives: June 2014

It’s Garage Sale Season

It’s summer and the garage sale season is in full swing across the peninsula.  “No national statistics are available, but garage and yard sales clearly proliferate in warmer weather,” the New York Times proclaimed in 1997.  Well, we’ve come a long way in the data department in the last 15 years.  If you need a number, you can generally find it; garage sales are no exception, though one has to wonder what government agency is driving around our neighborhoods collecting the data.  

In fact, not only are there statistics on the number of garage sales, but prices and profits.  According to, about 690,000 people buy something at one or another of the 165,000 garage sales that take place every week in the US.  This is not pin money.  Garage sales produce over $4.2 million a week in revenue – that’s over $200 million a year and growing.  Individual sales are small – different types of items command different prices – but the overall average for items sold is $.85.  Doesn’t seem like much, but it sure adds up.    

Between the dollar volume and the sheer number of sales, it is not surprising that garage saleing has become an entrepreneurial business in its own right. lists thousands of items if you search for garage sale, everything from how to books to signs and sales stickers.  There are also folks who cruise garage sales to snap up those 85 cent items to resell on eBay.  Statisticbrain figures the profit margin on garage sale goods resold on eBay is 462% a margin virtually any small business would be happy to see. 

There is no shortage of advice for serious garage salers – how to books abound.  Some advice seems a bit obvious, like holding your sale on a Saturday and starting early, but other recommendations are more subtle like making sure everything is priced and not setting your prices at “book value.” Signage is important and, in some areas, permits are even required.  The experts suggest you never work a garage sale by yourself; it is too easy to become the victim of theft.  And, theft is a problem.  Sometimes there are even organized groups who can descend on a garage sale and while one person distracts the person holding the sale, the thieves can make off with the best goods.  The counter to these sorts of dangers is organizing your sale so you can keep watch and creating a buffer zone away from the road so you can observe anyone trying to make off with sale items.  There are do’s and don’ts about handling money and making change as well as what to do with the family pooch while the sale is going on.  This last area rang a bell with us since a loose dog at a yard sale could easily be confused about their responsibility to protect and defend with strangers carrying off household goods.  The last thing you need at your garage sale is a claim on your Washington Homeowners Insurance policy.  

On the other side of the garage sale fence, it you are a shopper there a few things the experts suggest you stay away from.  These include personal protective gear like helmets, makeup and fragrances that may not take well to aging and pretty much all bed related items – including things that go in beds like teddy bears.  The fear here, of course, is bed bugs.  

Anyway, summer is the season for sales and Saturday is the day.  If you want to know about garage sales at this time of year, here is a link to a nifty infographic; if you want to go to a garage sale, just drive around your neighborhood – the signs will be there.

Starting A Business? – Insurance You Should Have

Starting a business is exciting and sometimes fear inducing. Depending on the business there are a host of things to keep a budding entrepreneur busy – operations, inventory, sales, fulfillment, and personnel just to name a few.  While you are building that business plan, make sure to include attention to your insurance needs; you need to build in your approach to risk as early in your business development process as possible. Every business needs several different types of insurance to protect them from a financial calamity. 

Probably the first type of insurance every business needs is general liability insurance. Liability insurance generally provides protection in the event of injury whether on your premises or as a result of harm from a product or service.  It also offers protection in the event of damage to the property of others and can help cover medical expenses, attorney fees and damages you are legally responsible for. Coverage may vary depending on the type of business you are in – for example, it may include professional liability if your business involves providing expert opinions or service

If your business has an office address and owns furniture or fixtures, you will need property coverage.  This will provide protection against fire, theft or other hazards to your business assets.  For businesses that take their tools with them to the jobsite, consult with your Homer Smith Insurance representative about whether you might need to add or substitute an Inland Marine policy to protect your tools and equipment while they are on a jobsite or in transit.  inland marine  

Most businesses outside the State of Washington need to add Worker’s Compensation Insurance, but in Washington we have had a state operated system since the early 19th century.  When your business has employees, you must set up your insurance with Washington State Labor and Industries.  

Businesses that own automobiles or where company employees use their own vehicles to carry out company business need to consider having auto insurance or a type of coverage called “non-owned” auto coverage to provide protection in the event of auto accidents or incidents. Owned auto coverage takes care of instances involving company vehicles; non-owned auto provides defense when the employees insurance is exhausted and the company becomes involved. 

Today, any business that will collect sensitive information on customers and keep that on a computer system needs to consider insuring against data breaches or data loss.  The headlines about data hacking seem to recur almost daily these days and this insurance can help with liability in the event sensitive data is disclosed or when there is a business interruption due to data loss or harm to a computer system.

Finally, if you are a startup company or a nonprofit with a board of directors, you should consider Director’s and Officer’s Insurance.  D&O insurance will help provide some financial protection in the event directors and officers in your company are sued in relationship to the performance of their duties for the company. The more common suits in this area relate to employment practices such as  harassment and discrimination suit, but sometimes include financial issues as well.  

Boat Theft Prevention

Washington state ranks 19th in boat registrations in the US and there are about 234,500 boats registered here. That means about one in every thirty Washington residents is a registered boat owner.  National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) statistics indicate there were 6,070 watercraft thefts reported in 2011 with Washington State ranking fourth in the nation for the number of boat thefts reported.

The chances of your boat being stolen are relatively small – but that is no consolation if it does happen to you. Trailerable watercraft is at greatest risk of theft; only about 4% of boat thefts are cruisers. Most thefts occur in spring and summer months, but the off season is a time to be prudent; these are the months when you may not be looking closely at your boat.

Here are some tips that can help keep your boat safe winter and summer.

Protect your keys – don’t leave your key in the ignition when the boat is not in use, and never leave your key on the boat when it is unattended. Registration, title or document papers must be onboard the vessel while it is in use, but remember to take them off the boat when it is not in use – particularly if you will be away for an extended period of time. Make copies of your vessel registration and boat title to keep off the vessel and take photos or video of your boat and equipment for documentation. Never leave your boat with a “For Sale” sign posted on it – that is an open invitation for someone to take the boat under the guise of a sale. If you have to leave your boat for an extended period of time, ask someone to check on it regularly.

Secure your boat – choose a marina with full-time security and good lighting and let personnel know when your boat is being used or not used. Secure your boat to the dock with a locked steel cable and consider installing an anti-theft alarm and/or tracking system on your boat. Boats on trailers should be kept in a secured boat storage facility, or a well-lit, fenced area; chain and lock detachable outboard motors to the boat.

If the boat is kept at your home, don’t leave it in a spot that is visible from the street – keep it behind your house or on the side of your house and park it so the trailer tongue doesn’t face the street. Install a high quality trailer hitch lock even if the boat is to be left on a trailer for a short period of time. To protect a boat that will be on a trailer for a longer period of time, you can remove one wheel from the trailer and lock the removed wheel in a secure location, away from the boat and chain the trailer frame to a large tree or other immovable object.

Remove portable electronics and fishing equipment, from the boat when not in use or if it cannot be easily removed, stow it in a locked storage location. Etch identifying marks such as the vessel’s Hull Identification Number (HIN) on all electronic cases, high-value rods and reels, HD/Plasma TV sets and other expensive personal items. You can consider protecting the vessel’s cabin with a deadbolt-type lock or even creating a secure locker space with a deadbolt lock or a strong hasp and padlock to keep valuable items when you’re not on board.

Finally, give a thought to your insurance. Make sure your marine insurance policy includes your equipment, boat, and trailer and if you are going to be parking a trailered boat in your yard at home, make sure the boat will be covered either by your marine policy or your homeowner’s policy. If you need help understanding your insurance options, give us a call at Homer Smith Insurance. Our Jim Maupin is expert in marine insurance and we can help you understand both your marine and homeowner’s coverage as it relates to your boat.

Auto Racing at the Dawn of Time

June 13 marks the anniversary of the first automobile race in history, in 1895, and the beginning of a distinguished tradition among people who really want to get there first.  There had been earlier auto contests, but they were more for demonstration purposes – proving that autos could travel reliably from one place to another. The first race where the intent was to be the first one across the finish line was a round trip – Paris to Bordeaux and back to Paris a distance of 1178 kilometers or 732 miles and it appears the intent was then as it is today, to stimulate an interest in the market for autos.  The distance was pretty astounding when you think about since neither reliability nor road infrastructure would have favored a distance race.

Panhard-levassor.jpg Levassor – Panhard  There were 22 starters in that first race and nine cars finished.  Leading the way was Emile Levassor driving a Levassor-Panhard who averaged a bit over 24 kilometers per hour (15MPH) on the trip. While Levassor is listed as the official winner, he actually did not get a prize because he, and the Peugeot that finished in second place 11 hours after Levassor were two seaters and the race was for four-seat autos.  If there were a prize for irony in the race, it would have gone to Andre Michelin (yes, the Michelin Tire guy) who Did Not Finish the race, dropping out due to tire problems.

This first race spawned others in quick succession and in a similar format.  In the US, early November of 1895 saw the Times-Herald Expo Run from Chicago to Waukegan to Chicago – a distance of 94 miles. That race actually could not be dignified by the term “race.” Only two entries made the starting line and only one finished – Oscar Mueller in a Mueller Benz.  The Chicago race was followed within the month on Thanksgiving Day by another Chicago Times-Herald race and this time there was a winner – Frank Duryea – who beat Oscar Mueller over a snow shortened 54 mile course.  Duryea averaged 7 miles an hour in his victory.  Mueller was not far behind and no other drivers finished.  This is generally viewed as the first race in America.


In the US we turned fairly quickly from the Grand Prix type races from point to point and opted for shorter more visible tracks.  The Narragansett Trotting Park – a one-mile horse racing oval – has the distinction of being the first NASCAR style race in the US.  On September 7, 1896, seven cars lined up for a five mile race.  Two cars were electric and five were gas powered.  The electrics took first and second place with a Riker Electric grabbing the checkered flag.    

All of these races actually predate the first auto insurance policy. That was written in 1897 when Gilbert J. Loomis of Dayton, Ohio arranged to buy an insurance policy from the Travelers Insurance Company. The policy was only for liability in the event Loomis’ car killed or injured someone or damaged their property.  He paid $1,000 for the policy but there is no indication he ever filed a claim.

AARP Insurance Services at HSI

Homer Smith Insurance has recently become authorized to offer the AARP Auto and Home Insurance Program from The Hartford.  Now as an independent agent, we are authorized to represent a number of insurers – that is important because it allows us to search among available options to find the best fit for our customers.  Authorization to the AARP program is a bit different, however.

AARP is an association, not an insurer, and it offers a wide variety of branded insurance products from health and life to motorcycle under the AARP name.  Most of these products are also sold directly by AARP or through the actual underwriting companies.  When AARP elected to begin offering its branded home and auto insurance programs through independent agencies it was an important step that placed a lot of responsibility on the agencies.  AARP rolled out the agency authorizations on a state by state basis and created a rigorous screening process to qualify agencies.  This process included background and credit checking, and required comprehensive training from The Hartford on the AARP Auto and Home Insurance Program. AARP has layered many features and benefits into the program and some are unique.  They are also depending on their authorized agents to represent not only the product, but the AARP service promise as well.  It is a responsibility we understand and it gives us a special product addressed directly to an important market here on the Peninsula.

The AARP organization provides much more than insurance products; they sponsor a wide range of programs and services addressed to the special needs of our growing senior population.  They produce educational programs and materials that support seniors, such as the AARP Driver Safety Program .  In the state of Washington, taking the AARP program will earn you a discount on your auto insurance bill.  They also create and produce other tools for seniors including financial, health, work and travel tools.  Here is a link to their full set of online tools.  
One of the things we find exciting about being authorized to offer this program is that it really does give us a very senior oriented program to work with.  The rates are affordable, and there is an outstanding customer service promise through both AARP and Homer Smith Insurance that is tailored to the needs of our policyholders.  The auto policies have a 12 month rate guarantee that helps fixed income seniors budget their expenses and a Lifetime Renewability benefit.  Lifetime Renewability is a great “peace of mind” provision. Once you are an AARP/The Hartford policyholder for 60 days, you can be confident of keeping your coverage so long as you want excepting for rare for medical or legal reasons.   

Finally, the AARP Program offers a really innovative policy feature called RecoverCare which is designed to provide a helping hand for policyholders following an accident.  The RecoverCare benefit is a $2500 out of pocket protection that helps with those incidental expenses that mount up following an accident.  Need a cab ride to the doctor or someone to come in to do some housecleaning while you are off your feet? The RecoverCare benefit is there to help; it helps take away some of the incidental financial burdens following an accident.  And, of course, you can save even more by bundling your homeowners, condo or renters insurance with your car insurance policy.   

Here at Home Smith Insurance we are pleased to be authorized to represent the AARP Auto and Home Insurance Program from The Hartford as we are all of the other fine lines of insurance we represent.  Whether you are a senior interested in the AARP Programs or just starting out, give us a call; we can help. 

Special Events Coverage

The Olympic Peninsula has more than its share of events – from Lavender Festivals to Wooden Boats and literally hundreds between sponsored by clubs, association and nonprofit organizations. There is seldom a weekend between April and December when you can’t run, golf watch films or watch a parade. While the variety of events is enormous, they all have pretty much one thing in common; they need insurance.

There are three types of insurance an organization may need to consider as it looks to sponsoring an event, they are liability coverage, event cancellation and special promotions coverage also called prize indemnity. If you are planning an event a discussion with your insurance agent is definitely in order both to be clear on any coverage you may already have that can be extended to your event and to insure that there are no unforeseen risks.

Liability insurance afford protections against lawsuits resulting from personal injury and can include anything from slips and falls to food poisoning by event participants and more broadly damage to property (like the venue), workers compensation, volunteer protection and even auto coverage. For some events an organizations commercial general liability may be extended to cover the event or the venue; for other events you may need to consider the need for a separate policy for the event to assure all of your risks are covered. If alcoholic beverages will be served at your event, you need to purchase a liquor liability policy to make certain that avenue is well covered. That advice extends to events as seemingly safe as a wedding or a family reunion.

Cancellation insurance may be a good investment if your event is dependent on good weather or on some other set of components out of your control – like the arrival of a band. Cancellation insurance can help reimburse you for sunk costs like rental of the venue or security measures. Policies may even pay out in the case of events that are curtailed rather than cancelled – such as a multi-day event that has to be abandoned in the middle. For organizations that are making a significant investment to conduct an event, this coverage can be lifesaving.

A third type of insurance covers special promotions or prizes. This insurance coverage has been in the national news recently for an auto dealer in western Washington. The dealer created a special promotion around a Seahawks – Giants football game; $420,000 in prize money if the Seahawks shut out the New York Giants. The promotion was simple – anyone who bought a vehicle during a four-day period was entered in a drawing. Winners of the drawing would each get $35,000 and there were going to be 12 winners. Well, the Seahawks did shut out the Giants and the car dealership was on the hook for $420,000. Fortunately for the dealer, they had purchased a prize indemnity policy for a reported $7400 that provided coverage for their promotion.

It isn’t just car dealers who benefit from this type of insurance. Golf tournaments frequently include prizes for a hole-in-one and this type of insurance is what allows tournaments to post million dollar prizes for a hole-in-one.

If you are planning a special event of any type, the knowledgeable agents at Homer Smith Insurance in Port Townsend or Sequim will be able to answer any questions you may have regarding insurance requirements.