Your home is likely to be your biggest investment, so you’ll want to protect it and its contents with a good homeowners insurance policy. There are a lot of considerations when you buy homeowners insurance, and navigating through policies and industry terms can be confusing–especially if you’re a new homeowner or are in the stages of buying a home.
Here are ten things you must know about homeowners insurance plans:
10. What the policy does and doesn’t cover.
Most insurance policies cover damages caused by fire, certain storms, theft, or vandalism. It also includes liability coverage if you’re sued. However, things like war, earthquakes, sinkholes, flooding, and other events are not covered or require additional insurance. Make sure you talk to your insurance agent candidly about what specific events are covered and what ones are not before you sign anything or buy homeowners insurance.
9. Where you live plays a role in rate.
If you live in a high crime area or one that is at high risk for natural disasters, you’ll likely pay more for your insurance. Before you sign on the dotted line to purchase a new home, you should get an idea of homeowners insurance rates in the area. You should be able to get an estimate from your insurance company before you agree to purchase a home.
8. It pays to shop around.
Don’t go with the first quote you get. Always shop around and compare quotes. Quotes can differ drastically—sometimes by over 100 percent. Before you buy homeowners insurance, try to get at least three rate quotes from different companies to make sure you’re getting the best price for the coverage you need.
7. Bundling helps you save.
Bundling your homeowners insurance with the same company that insures your vehicle or business will likely save you money, so it might be wise to contact them first. You’ll still want to shop around to assure you’re getting the best homeowners insurance policy for your money, but don’t overlook the companies that currently provide you with property loss coverage, as they will often give current customers a discount for having multiple policies with them.
6. Safety measures can also save you money.
Protecting your home by installing a security system, deadbolt locks, or fire sprinklers can save you money on your policy and provide peace of mind at the same time. Security systems and advanced fire protection systems can not only help to lower your homeowners insurance rates, but they can provide priceless peace of mind too.
5. “Toys” can be costly.
Trampolines and swimming pools on your property are considered high risk because they can cause personal injury and/or damage to the property. Thus, they will likely increase the cost of your homeowners insurance premiums. It is important to remember this when you shop around for rates when you are looking to buy homeowners insurance.
4. You might need extra coverage.
Valuables like art or jewelry require additional coverage, called a “rider” because it “rides” on your existing policy. Many married couples choose to insure wedding rings, if they’re worth more than the insurance deductible. Which brings us to…
3. Be sure to choose the right deductible.
A $10,000 deductible may mean low monthly payments, but if you needed to file a claim, could you afford to shell out $10k before you’d see any benefit? Choose a deductible you can comfortably afford to pay right now, whether that be $500 or $5,000. You can re-evaluate your ability to pay a higher (or lower) deductible at a later date, if you wish– but don’t choose an astronomical deductible now with the mindset that you’ll be able to pay it later.
2. Know that condo insurance is different than homeowners insurance.
If you are purchasing a condominium, you should know that the insurance plan you will need is specific to condos. Condo insurance is a special owners insurance policy for those who own condominiums instead of single family home residences. Be sure you understand the difference before you buy homeowners insurance or condo insurance.
1. Know the difference between replacement cost and actual cash value.
Replacement cost is the amount it would cost to replace your items with the same or comparable item. Actual cash value (or ACV) covers your belongings for the amount they’re worth at the time of loss, which is usually significantly less than you bought when deflation is taken into account.
Hopefully you’ll never need to file a homeowners insurance claim. If you do, however, having the best coverage for your needs and budget will make the process go smoothly. If you’re thinking about refinancing, now is an excellent time to re-evaluate your homeowners insurance needs. Before your submit the required documents to refinance your mortgage, think about getting an additional quote or two for a new homeowners insurance policy to see if you might save more money with a different company than the one you’re currently using.