There are many companies selling homeowners insurance, almost too many to count… But what do you need? Are all the policies the same? What’s covered and what isn’t? When do they pay? How much do they pay? Is it a hassle getting the money? Is there really a difference between companies? Between agents? Unfortunately, the answers to these questions are all too often only found out the hard way at the time of loss.
The best way to buy homeowners insurance is to find a local agent who represents a number of different companies so you have a choice and then go and sit down and talk to them. Explain that you don’t know very much about homeowners insurance, but that you know you need it and could they help you. Because it is to your advantage be sure and offer to bring your car insurance to the agency if they can help you with the homeowners insurance. This is a significant investment of your time, but your home is likely the most significant investment you’ll ever make. The guy who is offering to save you 80% of the cost of your homeowners insurance for a 2 minute phone call is probably not that easy to get a hold of when you have a claim. I’m not saying there isn’t a real premium difference between companies, there is, just be careful and find a good agent you can trust. Those savings can be very illusive and disappointing when you have a claim. Most agents who have been around for a while see more claims in a year than you will have in a lifetime.
What sorts of things are covered on a homeowners policy? A typical homeowners policy covers direct damage to things you own, damage like fire, theft, frozen water pipes, or trees falling on your home. Almost none of them cover flood and all of them have significant limitations that you may need to have fixed.. This is a very good time to talk to your agent about the limitations, i.e. the fine print, on the homeowners policy. Most policies have maximum amounts that they will pay for certain items or may even exclude certain items or events entirely. A few thousand dollars of coverage for silver, coins, computers or jewelry is a common limitation, but damage from mold often has a dollar limit. Most limitations can be amended in various ways with the proper documentation of value. Be sure and make pictures of your property, it makes it much easier for a claims adjuster to establish value when you have a claim. Store your pictures somewhere away from your home. My favorite place is as an attachment sent to my personal email account.
Many people have collections of interesting or unusual items from jewelry and silver to teacups and beer cans or the latest electronics. Just because you don’t have an expensive painting doesn’t mean you don’t need that scheduled or specific coverage. It is better to get the right coverage and good advice that you wish you had at the time of loss.
In addition to the coverage for your property ask about the liability coverages. That trampoline or family pet may get to be rather expensive when it comes to getting liability coverage for them. Most companies offer an umbrella policy which broadens and increases the coverage available through a homeowners policy.
The best final advice I can give you is shop for an agent you like and can trust. The difference in price is going to be minimal and the difference in claim service with the right coverages can be priceless.