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Updated: 2016-09-27T22:05:14Z

 



Study: Tiverton casino would increase jobs, revenue, despite Taunton competitionTHE proposed Tiverton casino, with or without competition from Taunton, Mass., would add jobs, revenue and new economic activity for Rhode Island, according to an Economic Impact Study released by Twin River Management Group.

2016-09-27T16:27:34-04:00

Despite competition from a potential casino in Taunton, Mass., the operation of a Tiverton casino would mean increased jobs, tax revenue and new economic activity for the state of Rhode Island, according to an Economic Impact Study released Tuesday by Twin River Management Group.

LINCOLN - Despite competition from a potential casino in Taunton, Mass., the operation of a Tiverton casino would mean increased jobs, tax revenue and new economic activity for the state of Rhode Island, according to an Economic Impact Study released Tuesday by Twin River Management Group.

With competition from a Mashpee Wampanoag Indian Tribe casino in Taunton, a Tiverton casino would create 1,391 total jobs, add $68 million in tax revenue from gaming taxes and non-gaming sources and is estimated to generate $121.4 million in new economic activity.

Without competition from a Taunton casino, a Tiverton casino would create 1,718 total jobs, $91 million of tax revenue from all sources and $157.1 million of new economic activity.

The study estimates the net economic impacts on the state of Rhode Island of building and operating a new casino in Tiverton using Newport Grand's gaming license. It was conducted by Spectrum Gaming Group, an independent research and professional services firm that serves private and public sector clients worldwide.

Accounting for the closure of Newport Grand and assumed competition from a Taunton casino, Rhode Island can expect a net increase of 791 jobs, $30.2 million of tax revenue and $64.5 million of net new economic activity from a new casino in Tiverton in 2019. Without competition from Taunton, net gains to the state would rise to 1,118 jobs, $53.3 million of tax revenue and $100.2 million of net new economic activity, the study said.

The study also measures the current economic contributions of Twin River Casino and Newport Grand Casino. Using the last full year of data, in 2015 Twin River Casino contributed $305 million in gaming taxes. Twin River direct activity created 3,112 total jobs and $489.6 million of total output, while Newport Grand direct activity created 260 total jobs and $33.7 million of total output.

"This analysis was encouraging to us for two key reasons," TRMG Chairman John E. Taylor Jr., said in a press release. "It signals to us and the state that our efforts to grow and improve upon the financial viability of a casino in the Newport County area have merit, even in the face of potential increased competition from Massachusetts. Second, we have long believed that it is critically important the voters understand exactly what is at stake with Question One statewide, and Question 8 in Tiverton, which are on the November ballot. The findings of this study provide that level of detail from an economic impact perspective and we hope will allow the voters to make an informed decision."


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Warren Group: Single-family home sales rise in Mass.AUGUST SALES of single-family homes in Massachusetts reached the second highest mark of the year, The Warren Group said this week.

2016-09-27T14:27:19-04:00

August sales of single-family homes in Massachusetts reached the second highest mark of the year, The Warren Group said this week.

BOSTON - August sales of single-family homes in Massachusetts reached the second highest mark of the year, The Warren Group said this week.

A total of 6,914 single-family homes sold in August, compared with 6,296 sold in August 2015, represents a 9.8 percent increase and trails only the June sales figures, when 7,387 homes were sold.

August sales haven't been this strong since 1999, when single-family home sales reached 6,975. Year to date, sales climbed 14.2 percent, with 40,060 homes sold through August compared with 35,074 sold during the same time last year, The Warren Group said.

There was a 7.7 percent increase in Bristol County home sales with 490 homes sold in August compared with 455 sold in August 2015. Year to date, Bristol County sales skyrocketed by 41.3 percent with 3,184 homes sold compared with 2,254 sold last year.

According to The Warren Group, the median sale price of a single-family home in August reached $364,900, a 1.6 percent increase from $359,000 last year. Year to date, prices rose 1.2 percent from last year, with a median sale price of $349,000.

Bristol County saw larger increases. The $292,500 median sale price of a single-family home in August was a 9.6 percent increase from $267,000 last August. Year to date prices increased 7.4 percent from last year, with a median sale price of $274,250.

Timothy Warren, CEO of The Warren Group, said this year has been spectacular for the Massachusetts real estate market.

"In fact we are at or near record levels in several categories. No August has had a higher median sale price for single-family homes since August 2005 when the median reached $370,000," Warren said in a press release.

Condominium sales prices fared even better than homes. The $345,000 median sale price for condominiums in August is a 4.5 percent increase from $330,000 last August. Year to date, condo prices rose 3.1 percent with a median sale price of $330,000 compared with $320,000 in the same timeframe last year.

There was a 14.7 percent increase in the number of condos sold in August, with 2,792 compared with 2,433 sold in the same month last year. Condo sales year to date increased 8.6 percent to 15,822 compared with 14,565 sold in the same time period last year.

While Bristol County condominium sales spiked, the condominium median sale price dipped 5.3 percent, to $179,000 from $190,000 last August. The condominium year-to-date median sale price remained the same at $185,000. There was a 70.3 percent increase in condominium sales with 109 sold compared with 64 sold last year, and a 77.5 percent increase in year to date sales with 639 sold compared with 360 sold last year. 

 


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More students take College Board exams, but SAT scores dropKEN WAGNER, state education commissioner, is shown speaking with Gov. Gina M. Raimondo. A record number of Rhode Island students took College Board tests last year, but Scholastic Aptitude Test scores fell compared with the year before.

2016-09-27T13:27:22-04:00

A record number of Rhode Island students took College Board tests last year, but Scholastic Aptitude Test scores fell compared with the prior year, according to a report released by the College Board on Tuesday.

PROVIDENCE - A record number of Rhode Island students took College Board tests last year, but Scholastic Aptitude Test scores fell compared with the prior year, according to a report released by the College Board on Tuesday.

More than 6,000 members of the Class of 2016 took SATs, an increase of 1 percentage point from the previous year, and 5,040 seniors took advanced placement tests, an increase of 7.8 percentage points from the Class of 2015. In addition, the report found every high school in the state with a graduating class participated in the SAT.

There were 8,657 AP tests taken by Rhode Island public school students in the Class of 2016. Of those tests 4,754 were graded at 3 points or higher, which will earn the test taker college credits at many postsecondary institutions. The exams are scored between 1 and 5 points and this increase represents a 7.7-percentage point rise from 2015.

Education Commissioner Ken Wagner said AP courses provide students with challenging opportunities in preparation for further studies.

"Students who participate in college readiness assessments such as the SAT and AP tests are more likely to see a college education as a part of their future. That's good for students and good for Rhode Island, as we need more college graduates who will be ready to enter the challenging careers of the 21st century economy," he added.

SAT scores among Rhode Island public high school seniors were less impressive. A 2 point decline to 478 points was witnessed in critical reading and 3 point slips were measured in mathematics (478) and writing (465). SAT exams are scored between 200 and 800 points.

The national average also saw decreases with reading down 2 points, mathematics down 4 points and writing down 3 points. However, Rhode Island scores are below the national average by 9 points in reading, 16 points in mathematics and 7 points in writing.

The Rhode Island high school with the highest SAT scores in all three categories was Barrington High School, where students scored a 586 in reading, 596 in mathematics and 572 in writing.

Students enrolling in AP tests in the Ocean State were much more diverse in 2016 according to the College Board report. Thirteen percent more African American students participated for a total of 287 students and 33 percent more Hispanic students, 914 total students, took the test in 2016.

Students at Providence's Classical High School scored the highest on AP tests in the state with 590 exams scored at 3 points or better and had the most number of exams taken in the state, 1,155.

The Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test is taken by 10th- and 11th-graders and last year there were 4,549 Rhode Island 10th-graders who took the test, up 23.4 percentage points, and 5,308 11th-graders, a 1.4-percentage point increase.

These participation rates are expected to rise by 40 percent, or even double, after an initiative put forward by Gov. Gina M. Raimondo that will eliminate the $90 test fee for both 10th- and 11th-graders this school year.

All fourth, eighth and 11th grade students in Rhode Island public schools sat for the NECAP Science test this May and their scores revealed close to 29 percent were proficient or above. This reflects a 2 percentage point dip from 2015.

Wagner said he was "disappointed" in the NECAP scores, "especially as we begin to focus on the important role science will play in growing areas of the Rhode Island economy such as health-care industries and information technology."

Because of the low scores, he added that the R.I. Department of Education plans to meet with district and school leadership to discuss science education in the state.


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R.I. still one of most energy-efficient statesRHODE ISLAND ranked fourth in the nation for energy efficiency on the 2016 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard. This was the second year in a row that the Ocean State ranked fourth.

2016-09-27T14:27:54-04:00

Rhode Island maintained its rank as the fourth most energy-efficient state in the country, according to this year's State Energy Efficiency Scorecard.

PROVIDENCE - Rhode Island maintained its rank as the fourth most energy-efficient state in the country, according to this year's State Energy Efficiency Scorecard.

The scorecard, released Tuesday by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, ranks states based on a range of energy topics, including state policies, utility and public benefits and transportation.

Rhode Island ranked No. 4 after Massachusetts and California - which tied for No. 1 - and Vermont, which received the No. 3 spot. Connecticut - the only other New England state to crack the top 10, tied New York for fifth place.

Rhode Island earned a score of 39.5 out of a possible 50, which is three more points than last year. Among its scorecard highlights, the state earned a perfect score for its utility policies and programs for the third year in a row. For transportation, the Ocean State earned six points out of a possible 10 points and an additional five points out of a possible seven points for its building energy code stringency and compliance efforts, according to the scorecard.

"Rhode Island has always ranked high in the State Scorecard and remains in the top five thanks in large part to its leading utility sector efforts to acquire all cost-effective energy efficiency. In 2014, Rhode Island was the first state to achieve electricity savings above 3 percent, driven by some of the most aggressive energy savings targets in the US. The state has shown strong commitment to reducing energy waste across almost all policy sectors and can continue to achieve high levels of energy savings through regular renewal of efficiency targets and periodic updates to its building energy codes, as well as potentially adding to its portfolio of sustainable transportation policies," according to the report.

Judith Judson, commissioner of the Mass. Department of Energy Resources, meanwhile lauded her administration for supporting the state's energy efficiency policies and finishing top in the nation for the sixth year in a row.

"By working with our utility partners, the commonwealth's ratepayers continue to realize billions of dollars in benefits from our nation-leading energy efficiency policies and programs," Judson said in a statement.


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Eleven Rhody Award winners namedVALLEY AFFORDABLE Housing will receive a Rhody Award next month for its rehab and new construction project in Cumberland's Ashton Village, a planned community built in the 1860s for mill workers.

2016-09-27T12:27:53-04:00

The Rhody Awards for historic preservation will be given to 11 recipients on Oct. 16.

PROVIDENCE - The Rhody Awards for historic preservation will be given to 11 recipients on Oct. 16.

The eighth annual awards celebration will be held at Rosecliff in Newport from 4 to 6:30 p.m.

Preserve Rhode Island and the R.I. Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission chose the award winners, which include individuals, organizations and projects that have contributed to the preservation of Rhode Island's historic places.

They include a master craftsman of architectural sheet metal, longtime preservationists from East Providence and Newport, a community museum in a Bristol carriage barn and a historic bridge that became a public park.

The 2016 awards include:

David J. Kelleher, of East Providence, who has educated everyone from second-graders to city council members about the historic places of East Providence, will receive the Antoinette F. Downing Volunteer Service Award.

Robert P. Foley, of Newport, will be recognized for his contributions to the historic preservation movement in the City by the Sea. He will receive the Frederick C. Williamson Professional Leadership Award.

Andrew J. Panciotti Sr., of Providence, a master architectural sheet metal mechanic who also mentors fellow workers and students, will receive the Stephen J. Tyson Sr. Artisan Award.

Dylan Peacock and Miki G. Kici will receive the Homeowner Award; the first-time homeowners undertook the hands-on restoration of the Cook-Cohen House (1911) in Providence's Elmwood neighborhood.

Winning project awards are:

Valley Affordable Housing, for its rehab and new construction project in Cumberland's Ashton Village, a planned community built in the 1860s for mill workers.

Bristol Art Museum, for the adaptive reuse of the Linden Place Carriage Barn (1866) for galleries, artists' studios and public classrooms.

Lila Delman Real Estate, which bought a fixer-upper, the historic Earle Warehouse (1784), and rehabbed it for its new Providence office.

TAI-O Real Estate Group, for completing the residential conversion of a sprawling mill complex in Central Falls with the rehabilitation of the historic Elizabeth Webbing.

Providence Revolving Fund, Lori Quinn and Dave Stem, for preserving a key block of Washington Street by rehabilitating the endangered George C. Arnold Building (1923).

The Arc of Blackstone Valley, for rehabbing the Heaton & Cowing Mill (1832, 1926) in Providence to provide apartments for homeless or nearly homeless veterans.

R.I. Department of Transportation, for converting the endangered Washington Bridge (1928-1930) into the Washington Bridge Linear Park, a new open space in a historic place that links the communities of East Providence and Providence.

The Rhode Island Preservation Celebration and Rhody Awards event is open to the public. Tickets cost $40 before Oct. 12 or $45 at the door. To buy a ticket or request more information, call (401) 272-5101 or visit www.preserveri.org.


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CoreLogic: Cash sales fall for Prov. metro homes in June CORELOGIC said cash sales for homes in the Providence-Warwick-Fall River metropolitan area declined in June by 9.3 percentage points compared with June 2015.

2016-09-27T12:27:12-04:00

Cash sales for homes in the Providence-Warwick-Fall River metropolitan area declined in June by 9.3 percentage points compared with June 2015, CoreLogic said Tuesday.

PROVIDENCE - Cash sales for homes in the Providence-Warwick-Fall River metropolitan area declined in June by 9.3 percentage points compared with June 2015, CoreLogic said Tuesday.

Cash sales accounted for 22.3 percent of total home sales in the Providence metro, which was lower than the national cash sales share of 29.3 percent, which fell year over year by 2.5 percentage points.

June marks the first time the nationwide cash sales share has been below 30 percent since late 2007, falling by 0.9 percentage points on month over month compared with May. In January 2011, the cash sales share peaked - cash transactions accounted for 46.6 percent of total home sales nationally. Prior to the housing crisis, the cash sales share of total home sales averaged approximately 25 percent. If the cash sales share continues to fall at the same rate it did in June, the share should hit 25 percent by mid-2018, CoreLogic said.

Nationwide, real estate-owned sales had the largest cash sales share in June at 56.2 percent, followed by resales at 28.9 percent, short sales at 27.7 percent and newly constructed homes at 15.2 percent.

Although the percentage of REO sales within the all-cash category remained high, REO transactions accounted for only 4.9 percent of all home sales in June. During the cash sales share peak period in January 2011, REO sales represented nearly 24 percent of total home sales.

Resales, which have the biggest impact on the total cash sales share due to making up the majority of home sales, totaled approximately 84 percent in June.

Of the nation's largest 100 core-based statistical areas, Detroit-Dearborn-Livonia, Mich., had the highest cash sales share at 56.5 percent, while Syracuse, N.Y., had the lowest cash sales share at 12.6 percent.


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Consumer confidence in U.S. rises to highest since August 2007

2016-09-27T10:27:08-04:00

Consumer confidence rose in September to the highest level since before the last recession, according to a report from the New York-based Conference Board on Tuesday.

WASHINGTON - Consumer confidence rose in September to the highest level since before the last recession, according to a report from the New York-based Conference Board on Tuesday.

The researcher's confidence index increased to 104.1 from 101.8. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg projected a reading of 99, based on the median estimate.

The survey may bode well for consumer spending, which has cooled after a robust second quarter, reflecting resilient labor market conditions and steady income growth. The assessment of the availability of jobs is consistent with data showing vacancies at a record high nationwide, suggesting that wages could see further gains.

"Consumers are more upbeat about the short-term employment outlook, but somewhat neutral about business conditions and income prospects," Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at the Conference Board, said in a statement. "Overall, consumers continue to rate current conditions favorably and foresee moderate economic expansion in the months ahead."

Consumers were more optimistic about the outlook for the labor market, as 15.1 percent said more jobs will be available in six months, the most since June 2015. The share of Americans who see their incomes increasing in the next six months fell to 17.1 percent from 18.5 percent. A 16.5 percent share of respondents said they saw an improvement in business conditions in the next six months, down from 17.6 percent. Buying plans wavered, however, with purchase expectations falling for autos, homes and appliances.




Eight-cent eggs: Consumers gobble cheap food as grocers squirm

2016-09-27T10:27:56-04:00

Call it the Great Grocery-Store Giveaway of 2016. Call it the Great Grocery-Store Giveaway of 2016. In Austin, Texas, Randalls slashed prices for boneless beef ribs by 40 percent, to $3.99 a pound. Not to be outdone, the H-E-B grocer down the street charged $1 a pound less. Not long ago, Albertsons advertised a deal you don't normally see on your finer cuts of meat: "buy 1 get 1 free" specials on "USDA Choice Petite Sirloin Steak." And what does $1 buy these days? In North Bergen, N.J., you could pick up a dozen eggs at Wal-Mart. OK, the price was actually $1.14. A mile away, check out Aldi, the German supermarket discounter, which can actually break the buck -- 12 eggs for 99 cents. A year ago, you would have paid, on average, three times that price. In a startling development, almost unheard of outside a recession, food prices have fallen for nine straight months in the U.S. It's the longest streak of food deflation since 1960 -- with the exception of 2009, when the financial crisis was winding down. Analysts credit low oil and grain prices, as well as cutthroat competition from discounters. Consumers are winning out; grocery chains, not so much. Their margins and, in some cases, their stock prices, are taking a hit. Eggs and beef have have grown especially inexpensive, and it isn't only an American phenomenon: In England, Aldi recently offered its prized 8-ounce wagyu steaks from New Zealand for about $6.50 -- a little more than the price of a pint of beer. "The severity of what we're seeing is completely unprecedented," said Scott Mushkin, an analyst at Wolfe Research who has studied grocery prices around the country for more than ten years. "We've never seen deflation this sharp." Mushkin, who researches local markets, recently found that prices of a typical basket of grocery items in Houston, had fallen almost 5 percent over the past year. He credits, in part, the discerning behavior of shoppers like Manny Sinclair. On a weekday lunch break, the 43-year-old contractor stopped by a Wal-Mart in Secaucus, N.J., to pick up turtle food and paper towels. Sinclair typically buys groceries at his local ShopRite but has recently noticed the steals he now finds at discounters. He glanced at the meat case, where a 12-pack of "Angus steak burgers" fetched $15.82 and grass-fed ground beef could change hands for $4.96 a pound. Sinclair was intrigued but, in the classic logic of a shopper in an age of deflation, figured he might find even lower prices elsewhere. Along with two Wal-Marts, a Target and an Aldi, the area even offers a Family Dollar that features a small refrigerated section. "Wherever I find the good deals -- that's where I'm at," Sinclair said. At first, falling prices helped grocers. Low-cost commodities pushed down the tab for meat and packaged food and boosted profits. Now, deflation has turned ugly for the industry. Led by Wal-Mart, retailers are pushing down prices, eating away at their profit margins. 'Irrational pricing' "It starts to border on irrational pricing," said Jennifer Bartashus, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. "People are lowering prices just to draw traffic, without thinking about their margins." Supermarkets are facing competition not just from Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Aldi but also dollar stores and online retailer Amazon.com Inc. It could get worse. Lidl, one of Aldi's German competitors, is building three distribution centers on the East Coast and plans to open U.S. stores by 2018. Even Whole Foods Market Inc. -- famously derided as "Whole Paycheck" -- is trying to compete on price through digital coupons and promotions on items such as beer and produce. In recent years, Kroger Co. -- the largest grocery store chain in the U.S., with nearly 2,800 stores -- cut prices to compete with Wal-Mart and managed to increase its market share and sales. But deflation has been hard on the super[...]



Commerce RI OKs $7.3M in credits for $62.1M in projectsTHE R.I. COMMERCE CORP. approved tax incentives for two projects Monday, including for this $23.2 million rehabilitation and new construction on former Interstate 195 land in the Fox Point neighborhood of Providence.

2016-09-26T20:26:59-04:00

The R.I. Commerce Corp. board authorized $6.1 million in real estate-related tax credits, as well as $1.2 million in sales tax incentives, to encourage development of two new mixed-use projects.

PROVIDENCE --; The R.I. Commerce Corp. board authorized $6.1 million in real estate-related tax credits, as well as $1.2 million in sales tax incentives, to encourage development of two new mixed-use projects.

The third phase of Hope Artiste Village in Pawtucket, presented by Urban Smart Growth LLC, will be eligible for $3.6 million in Rebuild Rhode Island tax credits, as well as up to $790,000 in sales tax rebates for purchases under the action approved by the board.

It plans a $38.9 million project that will complete the redevelopment of a nearly 140,000-square-foot building in the Hope Webbing Co. mill complex, according to information prepared by Commerce RI staff.

The third phase of the Hope Artiste village will include 150 loft apartments and supporting facilities.

The second project will stimulate development on the former Interstate 195 land in the Fox Point neighborhood of Providence.

Royal Oaks Realty LLC is eligible for up to $2.5 million in Rebuild Rhode Island tax credits and up to $400,000 in sales tax rebates, according to the presentation.

It plans to develop 24,000 square feet of commercial and retail space, and 47 apartments between two buildings, including new construction and redevelopment of an historic building. The site is Parcel 8 in the I-195 Redevelopment District.

Richard Baccari II, president and CEO of Royal Oaks Realty, attended the meeting and said he hoped to begin construction at the beginning of the 2017 construction season. The project total is $23.2 million.

In other business, the Commerce RI board authorized an $85,000 grant to Farm Fresh Rhode Island for a feasibility assessment of its proposal to build an agriculture-related processing and distribution facility at 498 Kingsley Ave. in the Valley neighborhood of Providence.

The nonprofit hopes to construct a 50,000-square-foot building on 3.3 acres, of which Farm Fresh would occupy about 35,000 square feet, and the remainder would be leased to complementary food businesses.

The area benefits from having the infrastructure that once lined the area for the 19th century manufacturing base, according to Lucie Searle, who oversees its food and agriculture campus initiative.

If everything goes well, she said, the organization hopes to begin construction in another year.

The Commerce RI board authorized the funds for the feasibility study through its Industry Cluster Grant Program.


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J.D. Power ranks Amica highest in customer satisfaction 15th year in a rowAMICA Mutual Insurance Co. was ranked highest in customer satisfaction by J.D. Power for the 15th consecutive year.

2016-09-26T16:26:16-04:00

For the 15th consecutive year, Amica Mutual Insurance Co. received the "Highest Customer Satisfaction Among National Homeowners Insurers" ranking in the J.D. Power 2016 U.S. Home Insurance Study.

LINCOLN - For the 15th consecutive year, Amica Mutual Insurance Co. received the "Highest Customer Satisfaction Among National Homeowners Insurers" ranking in the J.D. Power 2016 U.S. Home Insurance Study.

Scores are based on a 1,000 point scale. Amica's 864 was not only 30 points higher than its score in 2015, but is 60 points higher than the national average. Amica ranked highest among 28 award-eligible providers, based on 17,987 total responses, measuring the opinions of customers with their current home insurer, surveyed during June and July.

Auto Club of Southern California Insurance Group's score of 835 ranks second, followed by Cincinnati Insurance (828), GEICO (826) and Auto-Owners Insurance (824). Universal P&C was ranked last (716).

Interaction, policy offerings, price, billing process and claims are all taken into account when measuring overall customer satisfaction. According to the report, Amica performed especially well in the billing process and policy information, interaction, policy offerings and price factors.

"I'm so proud that we're once again being recognized by J.D. Power," Robert A. DiMuccio, chairman, president and CEO of Amica, said in a press release. "Our employees are the reason for our success, and I can't thank them enough for all of their hard work and outstanding customer service."

According to J.D. Power, insurers see improving customer relations as a better way to expand their customer base rather than competing on prices, which have remained stable for the past few years. On average, customers report an annual premium charge of $1,186 for homeowners insurance and $259 for renters insurance in 2016, the report said.


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