How Much Insurance You Need | How To Save Money | Doing A Home Inventory | When Buying Or Remodeling A Home
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How Much Insurance You Need
Basically, you need enough insurance to protect your house (not including the cost of your land) and possessions. Here are some key factors to keep in mind when determining how much insurance you need.
Insure your home for what it would cost to rebuild it, not your mortgage amount or market value. Your insurance agent can work with you to determine your home’s replacement value. One way for you to get a quick estimate is to multiply the total square footage of your home by local building costs per square foot. But keep in mind, things like type of construction, improvements, special custom features, etc., are not reflected in a generic cost-per-square-foot estimate. Please consult with your insurance agent who will have access to resources used in calculating a home's replacement value.
Don't underestimate the value of your belongings. Generally, homeowners policies give you coverage for your belongings that is equal to anywhere from 25% to 75% of the amount of insurance you have on your home. To decide what is right for you, do a video or written inventory of everything you own, including what it would cost to replace it. (See Doing A Home Inventory.) This is not only helpful in determining what your belongings are worth; it is invaluable if you have a claim. Consider insuring belongings on a replacement cost coverage basis. While it generally costs a little more, if you have a claim you will be reimbursed for what it costs to replace the item with no deduction for depreciation.
Make sure you have adequate liability insurance. If someone is injured on your property and you are not properly insured, it could cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars. Basic homeowners policies give you $100,000 worth of liability insurance. Increasing liability coverage to $300,000 or $500,000 is generally worth the relatively small increase in cost.
Look for a policy that covers the cost of building-code compliance. If your home needs to be repaired or replaced, the cost of improvements needed to comply with current
building codes may not be covered by a standard homeowners policy.
How To Save Money
Go with the highest deductible you can afford. A deductible is the amount of money you agree to pay if there is a claim. The higher your deductible, the less you pay for insurance. A higher deductible can also help improve your claims history – since you, rather than the insurer, pay small claims. A good claim history saves you money.
Use window locks and deadbolts on outside doors. They reduce the risk of theft and can also reduce insurance costs.
Consider a burglar alarm system, if you do not have one already. It will keep your home safer and save you money.
Be aware, if you are purchasing or remodeling a home, that construction type and building materials impact insurance costs. For example, masonry homes cost less to insure than frame houses, as do houses with hip roofs (roofs that have ends and sides that slope to the eaves line).
Consider upgrading electrical, plumbing and heating and air conditioning systems if you have an older home. It may determine if your home is eligible for coverage.
Make your home more disaster-resistant. Things like hurricane shutters, impact resistant glass and roofs connected to wall studs by hurricane straps provide greater protection for your home and can save you money.
Install and maintain smoke detectors. You may also want to think about installing a fire alarm that alerts the local fire department.
Do not overinsure. Do not confuse what you paid for your house with the cost of rebuilding it. Your home should be insured for 100% of what it would cost to replace it. It should not include the value of the land. Review your policy limits and the value of your possessions annually. While you want your policy to protect improvements and purchases you may have made, you do not want to spend money for insurance you do not need.
Take advantage of other discounts for which you may qualify. While they vary from company to company and state to state, there are discounts for new homes, homes in close proximity to a fire station or those located in gated communities, etc. Talk to your agent about what’s available in your area.
If you are currently insured through a state plan, investigate insurance from a private insurer. It could reduce your insurance costs and provide you with better coverage.
Doing A Home Inventory
If your home is burglarized or destroyed by a fire or some other disaster, would you be able to make a list of all your belongings from memory? Odds are, the answer is no. That is why taking a home inventory is one of the most important things you can do. First of all, it helps you make sure you have the right amount of insurance protection. Even more important, having an up-to-date home inventory is the best way to ensure you are paid quickly and fairly if you have a claim.
The idea of doing a home inventory can be intimidating – but it is a task that is well worth the effort. Here are some tips to get you started.
Choose your method. There are a number of ways to do an inventory. You can videotape it, do a written inventory with photos or use one of a number of new home inventory computer programs.
Go room to room. Do not forget the garage, attic and basement. Make a list of anything you’d want replaced if it was destroyed. To keep the task manageable, consider doing a room a week.
Update your inventory on an annual basis. Add new items and remove items you no longer have. Be sure to include any improvements you’ve made, such as a kitchen renovation or new addition.
Store your inventory in a safe place away from the house. If you do not have a safety deposit box, consider storing copies with a friend or family member.
Information Your Home Inventory Should Include:
- The name of the item along with a description and picture (Panasonic stereo, 32-pieces of china, wicker sofa, # of skirts, pants, shoes, etc.) Include everything from garden tools and luggage to mattresses and sports equipment.
- Estimated purchase price and current and replacement value of the item and when and where you bought it (attach receipts if you have them).
- On valuable items such as jewelry or antiques, you may want to attach a professional appraisal.
- Make, model and serial number for major appliances or electronics.
- Location of item (living room, garage, etc.). This can be valuable if there’s theft or damage in select areas of your home.
When Buying Or Remodeling A Home
The type and age of the home you live in, how it is built and where it is located can affect how much you pay for homeowners insurance. It can also impact how well your house will fare in severe weather or other natural disasters.
Whether you are buying a new home or renovating an existing one, here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Location, location, location – Is the home close to water or on the coast? How far is it to the nearest fire station and water source? Chances are you’ll pay more for insurance when you are on the water or far away from a fire station. Is the home located in a flood zone? If it is, you’ll probably need to purchase an additional flood insurance policy.
- Wall construction – Houses made of masonry or reinforced masonry withstand high winds better than wooden ones. In fact, insurance on wood frame homes can cost up to 10% more than brick or masonry homes.
- Age matters – New homes generally cost less to insure than older ones. New electrical systems and more weather resistant building codes and materials make them statistically less likely to be damaged from a storm or fire. Updated systems in an older home can help keep insurance costs down.
- Hip roofs (roofs that have ends and sides that slope to eaves line) are more stable in high winds than those with gables. Gabled roofs can be braced to provide more protection.
- Roofs connected to wall studs by hurricane straps, wraps and clips are more secure than those attached by nails only. Connecting walls to the foundation provides greater support than relying on friction and gravity.
- Impact resistant glass and hurricane shutters provide protection against wind-borne debris.
- Roofs with solid plywood sheathing, a secondary water barrier and impact-resistant shingles increase strength and durability.
- Exterior structures such as decks and porches that are anchored to the house and ground are better able to withstand severe winds.
- Overall condition – Cracks in walls or ceilings, obvious water damage or dampness can be signs of costly structural damage or needed repairs. Poor home maintenance (old roofs, broken windows, etc.) can also make it difficult to find a quality insurer willing to insure a home – until repairs are made.