Home Insurance: Know How It Works
The questions start when you're actively attempting to get a mortgage and you discover that home insurance is an essential. Your structure and everything in it need protection, and there are a lot of moving parts. In addition to covering your home and any outbuildings, standard policies typically will also cover your heating and cooling systems and their components. They'll pay for medical or legal expenses if someone other than you or your family is injured on your property.
Homeowners insurance has four main functions:
- Repairing your house, yard and any outbuildings.
- Repairing or replacing personal belongings.
- Paying for you to live elsewhere until your house is habitable again.
- Covering personal liability if you're held legally responsible for damage or injury to someone else.
When choosing a home insurance company, look for one that:
- Provides coverage in your area.
- Has competitive rates.
- Has a strong financial strength rating from AM Best, J.D. Power and/or Consumer Reports.
- Has good reviews from professional sources and customers.
- Offers 24/7 assistance through its website, live operators or a local agent.
Insurance company websites describe what is and isn't covered and what options are available. Many also have estimating tools, so once you enter basic information about your home and its contents, they give you an idea of what your cost will be. When speaking with an insurer, don't be shy about asking for details about what is and isn't covered.
What is your situation?
Consider the following examples:
A swimming pool falls under the category of "attractive nuisance," and you need to protect yourself in case a neighbor's child sneaks in and is hurt.
Do you live near the shore? Standard insurance does not include flood insurance, and even a little water can cause massive damage. Talk with your insurer about getting coverage through the National Flood Insurance Program administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The bottom line? Every situation is different, and your policy should reflect your situation.
Good rules of thumb:
- Gather information about your home — roof type, square footage, renovation history, location details.
- Compare home insurance quotes — Obtain quotes from at least three companies so you can ensure you aren’t missing out on better or more affordable coverage in your area.
- Finalize your policy and its details — determine how premiums are paid, and set policy dates. Consider deductibles. Higher deductibles may mean more out-of-pocket expenses but lower premiums and less hassle dealing with small claims.
Is a particular company offering an incentive that will lower the premium? Ask your company if it has a loyalty discount that lowers your premium a certain percentage according to how long you've been with them or if there are discounts for bundling homeowners insurance with automobile insurance or another policy. There may be discounts for new customers, first-time homebuyers, or homes with a security system, smoke detectors, a sprinkler system or hurricane shutters.
Home insurance is a competitive business, so comparing rates every year could save you money. Choosing the right homeowners insurance firm is a matter of selecting one with the coverage you need at a price you can afford. Speak with a well-regarded agent and other financial professionals about this important decision.