There are so many things to organize when purchasing a new home, that home insurance probably isn’t the first thing you’ll think of. Your mortgage lender however, will probably require you to have homeowners insurance. Especially for first time buyers, you should take the time to research and be sure that you’re choosing a policy that will give you peace of mind and protect your investment. Here are some things to consider.
You worked hard to find the perfect home, now you have to work hard to find the right insurance. Each provider has a different algorithm for determining customer premiums so the price of home insurance varies widely from carrier to carrier. It pays to shop around, compare and contrast rates. A U.S. consumer financial services company recently conducted a survey of home insurance costs from four companies. The survey, based on addresses in 15 cities nationwide, revealed home insurance rates ranged by as much as 188 percent depending on the location. Contact several companies to compare coverage but shop for value, not necessarily the cheapest price. Since you’ll mainly deal with insurance companies during times of disaster, be sure to find a company that is financially stable and has a high customer satisfaction rating and reviews.
More is More
Of course you’re looking to save money on insurance and don’t want to pay more than you need, however you need to be sure that you’re getting enough coverage. Standard home insurance policies offer protection from a variety of potential risks, ranging from liability to damage from weather-related perils. However, you may want to adjust or add coverage depending on your needs. Pay close attention to the part of your policy that protects the structure of your home – you should have enough dwelling coverage to rebuild completely in case the house is destroyed. That amount, however, is often different from the purchase price. Many homeowners buy only enough insurance to cover the amount of their mortgage, which may only be 80 or 90 percent of the value of the house, depending on the original down payment. Some homeowners insure an amount equal to the current value of their home but this figure may be less than the actual cost of rebuilding (including labor and supplies, which may rise sharply after a storm when there’s big demand and short supply). Be sure to notify your insurance agent whenever you make significant improvements to your property, which will affect your home’s replacement cost. To avoid calculating your home’s value every year, ask your insurer about an automatic inflation provision.
It is so important that you read the fine print of your policy and fully understand it, so that there are no surprises later and you’re home free. Understand the terminology, like deductibles, liability, premium, sub-limits and riders. Study the exclusions section of the policy and know what isn’t covered so that you can purchase additional coverage. For example, flood insurance is not part of a standard homeowners contract, and if you live near a river, the ocean, or area affected by hurricanes, you may need to buy additional flood protection. Consider additional living expenses if ever forced from the dwelling. If a house becomes uninhabitable due to a flood, fire or other disaster, you will need to pay for living accommodations and may need additional money for food and transportation, etc. This coverage is “additional living expenses” (ALE) and is a benefit that is usually worth about 20 percent of the home’s replacement value. Be aware of the benefits, limitations and exclusion. A mistake homeowners often make is believing they are covered for mold or sewage backup – many policies don’t offer this protection or have claim limits. Another is thinking that they have one, flat deductible – ask your agent if your policy has different deductibles depending on the cause of damage.
Where Credit is Due
Give yourself credit! You know that it matters when getting a favorable interest rate on your mortgage, but it also matters for home insurance. Providers use your credit report as part of the formula for assessing the risk you pose as a policyholder. Their models show that consumers with good credit are much less likely to file claims. Studies have found that people with poor credit may pay at least twice as much as people with excellent credit when it comes to homeowners insurance. So before you get too far into the buying process, assess your credit and take steps to improve your score. At the very least, make sure to correct any errors. There are many simple ways to improve your credit score, including paying your bills on time and keeping low balances on your credit cards. Improving your credit score can result in big savings on your mortgage and your home insurance premiums.
Bundle and Benefit
Bundling your policies and sticking with one insurance company can help you save on your home insurance costs. Some providers offer discounts that commonly range between 5 to 15 percent off your premium of you obtain your home and auto insurance for them. You may save even more if you purchase multiple policies from them, for example if you have multiple vehicles or a boat. See if you can bundle all items with one carrier to save money. Some insurance companies also offer special discounts for long-term policyholders. You may be able to lower your home insurance premium by up to 10 percent if you stay with certain providers for six years or more.