How Much Home Insurance Do I Need? A Guide for Buyers

If you’re buying a home, choosing the right amount of homeowners insurance for your property is key. Buy too much, and you’re wasting cash on coverage you’ll never use.

Buy too little, and if a hurricane, hailstorm, or other disaster strikes your home, your insurance might not cover the costs to fix the damage—which means you’ll be paying out of your own pocket.

So how much home insurance is enough? In this latest installment of our Home Buyer’s Guide to Home Insurance, we’ll outline all you need to know to get the right amount and type of insurance to suit your circumstances perfectly.

How much homeowners insurance do I need?

The goal of your homeowner insurance policy is to ensure you’re covered not only for minor damage that you’d like financial help fixing, but more importantly, in case your home is completely destroyed (in a tornado, fire, or otherwise) and needs to be rebuilt from scratch. This is known as “actual total loss” or “total loss.”

Total loss coverage varies from area to area as well as from home to home, but basically boils down to an estimate of how much it would cost to rebuild your home. That could cost more than you paid for your house, or less—it all depends on construction costs in your area.

“Size, materials, quality of finish, and a number of other factors will influence that rebuilding cost,” says Stefan Tirschler, product and underwriting manager at Square One Insurance Services.

To determine the total loss coverage for your property, you’ll want to talk to a home insurance company or agent (who probably represents various insurance companies), who can determine the best amount of coverage based on your home’s square footage, the local construction market, and, of course, the current market value of the house.

“When you shop for home insurance, your insurance provider will likely have access to electronic reconstruction cost-estimating tools to help provide a sense of how much coverage you need,” Tirschler explains.

If you have a mortgage on your home, your lender will probably require your coverage to equal 100% of the replacement cost of the home. And even if your home is paid off—or no requirement is in place—it’s still a good idea to buy enough coverage to cover the complete replacement cost.

Even if the odds are slim that you’ll ever need to use it, the peace of mind it can provide in the event of a disaster is priceless.

Does home insurance cover what’s inside the house?

Another factor to consider is not only the replacement cost of your house, but what’s inside as well—in other words, your belongings. After all, if your home is destroyed by fire or damaged by a hurricane, it’s not just the roof and walls that take the hit.

Most home insurance policies will cover interior items, but that doesn’t mean everything inside your home is safe. For instance, a “named perils policy” typically covers only a specific, narrow list of causes of loss, and depending on why you place the claim, you may find your insurance company won’t pay up!

If you want to ensure your valuables are fully protected, Tirschler suggests looking for an insurance provider that offers an “open perils” (or “all-risk”) policy.

“Open perils policies provide the strongest protection, because they cover all possible causes of loss except for those that are specifically excluded,” he notes.

Is basic home insurance enough?

As you shop for home insurance and compare quotes, you should know that most insurance providers won’t give you just one quote—rather, they may offer several. This is because companies often offer different levels of insurance—like “basic” and “enhanced”—each with their own price, pros, and cons. Here are some factors to consider:

  • Deductible. A deductible is the amount you’ll need to pay out of pocket before your insurance kicks in. Generally speaking, the higher the deductible, the cheaper the monthly insurance premiums. Why? Because with a high deductible, you’ll have to pay more before your insurance company has to pitch in. Deductibles often range from $1,000 up to $5,000.
  • Coverage limits. A coverage limit is the maximum amount your insurer will pay when something goes wrong and you file a claim—everything above this amount, you’ll have to pay out of pocket. For instance, a more affordable, basic plan might pay the medical bills if a guest is injured at your house at up to $1,000 per person, whereas a more expensive, enhanced plan might cover up to $5,000 per person.

You can choose between these various insurance levels based on your personal comfort level, tolerance for risk, and how much money you have in the bank in case of emergencies.

If your circumstances or outlook change, most companies will allow you to increase or decrease your coverage. For instance, if you could only afford a basic, bare-bones plan originally but want pricier/better coverage after getting a promotion at work, most insurance companies will happily adjust your plan to suit your new circumstances.

Do you need additional home insurance riders?

Your insurer will also likely offer you some additional, optional coverage. Got expensive jewelry or artwork in your home? You may want to purchase additional coverage. You’ll pay more now, but if your valuables are damaged or destroyed, your insurance company will help you pay to replace them, which could save you money in the long run.

“If you have any high-value items, such as jewelry or expensive art, these will require a different policy to truly cover their actual worth,” says Ralph DiBugnara, president of Home Qualified.

Remember, too, that you may need to purchase a separate insurance policy for things that are not covered in your plan. For instance, floods and earthquakes are typically not covered in basic insurance plans, so if you want it, you’ll have to buy this insurance separately.

In our next installment of this series, we’ll dive in more depth into what home insurance covers—and what it doesn’t.

Source: realtor.com

What Does Home Insurance Cover? The Facts on Fire, Flooding, and More

Few things give new home buyers peace of mind about their real estate purchase as much as a solid homeowners insurance policy. This ensures that if disaster strikes—in the form of a tornado, house fire, or otherwise—homeowners won’t be on the hook to foot the bill for expensive repairs on their own.

Exactly what does home insurance cover, though? Are there any key things homeowners might assume are covered that actually aren’t?

In this latest installment of our handy Home Buyer’s Guide to Home Insurance, we’ll explain what’s covered under most insurance plans—plus some key exceptions—so you know just how soundly you can sleep at night in your new home.

What does homeowners insurance cover?

A standard home insurance policy generally covers most (but not all!) natural disasters, theft, and accidents.

For instance, when a hailstorm does a number on your roof, you’ll file a claim and your home insurance company will help you pay to get it repaired. If the damage to your home has made it uninhabitable, your insurer may even pay for a hotel room until you can move back in.

“Generally, home insurance pays to repair or rebuild your property if it is damaged by fire, wind, lightning or other natural disasters,” says Josh Herz, president of Associated Insurance and Risk Management Advisors.

“It also covers your personal belongings, additional living expenses, and liability for you and others—if, say, when someone is injured on your property and litigates for damages.”

That said, all policies are different, so you’ll want to read through your home insurance documents carefully. Plus you might be surprised by what’s not typically covered in the fine print. Here’s what you need to know.

Does home insurance cover fire?

Whether you’re grappling with damage caused by a wildfire, lightning, electrical problems, a grease fire on your stove, or even a candle you left lit by accident, take heart that most house fires will be covered by home insurance.

And good thing too, since house fires are surprisingly common, with roughly one in every 350 insurance homeowners filing a claim due to fire or lightning each year. On average, insurance companies pay out $11,971 per claim to help repair fire damage.

Does home insurance cover water damage?

Water damage is typically covered by a standard homeowner insurance policy, as long as it was sudden and accidental—i.e., a pipe freezes, bursts, and floods your basement, or your hot water heater explodes.

Roughly one in every 50 insurance homeowners files a claim for water or ice damage every year. On average, insurance companies pay out $10,849 per claim. However, not all water issues are covered (more on that next).

Does home insurance cover water leaks?

While sudden water damage is typically covered, insurance companies generally won’t cover water leaks that appear gradually due to wear and tear, or are the result of poor maintenance.

In other words, if your roof is old and springs a slow leak, or if a pipe freezes and bursts because you didn’t shut off your water supply when you were away over winter break, good luck—you could be on your own.

It’s also important to know that your insurer will help cover the damage caused by water, but it probably won’t help pay to repair or replace the source of the damage. In other words, it won’t be buying you a new dishwasher if your own appliance flooded your kitchen.

Does home insurance cover plumbing?

Since plumbing problems can result in water damage, a standard home insurance policy should cover the problem if it appears out of the blue (i.e., a burst pipe). But if your pipes are just generally leaky, old, or poorly maintained, you might be on your own.

Does home insurance cover the roof?

This depends on what caused the damage. If your roof (as well as other parts of your house) gets pummeled by wind, hail, or a healthy tree falling, this is typically covered by home insurance.

It’s a good thing, too, since approximately one in every 40 insured homeowners suffers wind and hail damage each year, with claims paying out $11,200 to fix the problem.

Yet once again, your policy won’t help you out with normal roof aging and wear and tear. You’re responsible for maintaining your roof, which will need to be replaced around every 30 years (give or take, depending on what it’s made of).

If a tree falls on your roof because it was dead or rotted out, this could constitute neglect, and you could be on your own.

Does home insurance cover hurricanes?

This also depends, since hurricanes inflict damage in one of two ways—wind and water.

Damage from wind is typically covered, although your insurer may put in place a separate, higher deductible for wind damage caused by hurricanes.

Meanwhile, flooding caused by hurricanes is typically not covered by a standard homeowner insurance policy.

Does home insurance cover theft?

If someone breaks into your home and steals some of your belongings, your insurer will typically help you pay to replace those stolen items. Similarly, if a thief damages your home during the break-in, your home insurance company will help you pay for repairs, too.

Theft is surprisingly common, with approximately one in every 400 insured homeowners suffering property damage or loss caused by theft. On average, these claims pay out $4,391 annually.

Does home insurance cover pet bites and other injuries?

If your dog (or cat!) bites someone in your home, or if a visitor trips and falls down the stairs, your guests may want you to pay for their ensuing medical bills. You might also need to pay for lost wages if the injury prevents them from working.

Most standard insurance policies include what’s known as liability coverage, which means that your insurer will help pay for these expenses if someone gets hurt on your property.

This is good for you, since the average claim for bodily injury is roughly $45,000. Approximately one in 900 insured homeowners file claims of this type every year.

While home insurance covers many calamities that might hit your home, most policies don’t cover everything. Curious to know what these notable exceptions are? More on that in a future installment of this guide. Stay tuned!

Source: realtor.com

Is Home Insurance Required When You Buy a House?

If you’re buying a home, one question you might wonder is this: Is home insurance required when you own a house?

In many cases, homeowners insurance is indeed mandatory—and even in cases where it isn’t absolutely necessary, it’s still a good idea. To help you understand why, we’ve put together this Home Buyer’s Guide to Home Insurance, which will help walk you through what you need to know from beginning to end.

In this first article, we’ll introduce you to what homeowners insurance is, why it’s often essential, and what can go wrong if you don’t have it.

What is homeowners insurance?

With home insurance, as with other types of coverage (including health insurance), you pay a relatively small amount of money either monthly or annually in exchange for the promise that your provider will help you pay for unexpected costs you might incur as a homeowner.

What can go wrong? So much, including natural disasters, fires, crimes, accidents, and other emergencies, many of which can be expensive to fix. Without home insurance, you run the risk of getting stuck with a bill that could be in the tens of thousands of dollars. Home insurance offers protection and peace of mind that you won’t get hit with expenses that might be hard to pay on your own.

Why you need home insurance with a mortgage

If you need a mortgage on your home, most lenders will require you to get home insurance before they approve your loan and close the deal.

The reason: By loaning you money for the house, lenders are also investing in your property. If this investment suddenly plummets in value—since, say, a tornado turned it into a pile of rubble—it’s in your lender’s interests for you to have a home insurance plan that will rebuild and restore what you (and your lender) have lost.

“Homeowners insurance is typically required by a mortgage company,” says Brian Rubenstein, senior director for Ally Home. “A lender wants to protect the financial investment they made in your home.”

When to get homeowners insurance

At closing, most mortgage lenders will need you to show proof that you have an insurance policy already in place—even though you don’t officially own the home yet! This proof is known as an insurance binder, and serves as a temporary agreement between you and the insurance company that becomes permanent once you officially close on the home.

In fact, most lenders will want to see an insurance binder at least a few days before closing. As such, you’ll want to start shopping for insurance a few weeks before your closing date, so you have time to compare policies and find the right insurance company for you.

Do you need homeowners insurance without a mortgage?

Now, what if you don’t have a mortgage? Technically speaking, no, you’re not required to have homeowners insurance. But then the question becomes “Should you pay for home insurance?” The answer is still a resounding yes.

“Even if you don’t have a mortgage, home insurance protects the investment you’ve made in your house,” says Amy Danise, chief insurance analyst at Forbes Advisor.

“Think of the worst-case scenario, because that’s really what insurance is for: If your house burned down or was destroyed by a tornado, would you suffer financially?”

Reasons to get home insurance: What home insurance covers

If you don’t have homeowners insurance, you could be in for a rude awakening if disaster strikes and you need to pay engineers, contractors, electricians, masons, painters, roofers, and other highly specialized (read: expensive) professionals to repair the damage to your house.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, about 1 in 20 insured homes will file a claim each year. Meanwhile, data from the Insurance Research Council finds that, on average, insurance companies pay out about $8,787 per claim to help defray homeowners’ costs. Below are some of the most common and expensive insurance claims homeowners experience.

  • Wind and hail: Wind and hail damage is the most frequent reason why homeowners file insurance claims. Every year, 1 in 40 insured homeowners files claims related to wind and hail, with claims paying out an average of $11,200.
  • House fire or lightning strikes: Every year, about 1 in 350 insured homeowners files claims due to fire or lightning. These accidents are also among the most costly to repair, with claim payments averaging $11,971. Furthermore, lightning strikes are becoming more expensive. Why? Because our homes are rigged with an increasing number of electronic systems like smart home technologies, which can go haywire when struck by lightning.
  • Water damage or freezing water: About 1 in 50 insured homeowners files a property damage claim caused by water damage (like a leaky roof) or freezing water (burst pipes) each year. The claim payments average $10,849.
  • Theft: About 1 in 400 insured homeowners files claims due to theft every year, with claims paying an average of $4,391.
  • Personal injuries damage: In addition to covering your home and belongings, home insurance often includes liability coverage. This means that if a visitor gets hurt on your property, her medical bills should be covered by your home insurance company. About 1 in 900 insured homeowners files claims related to bodily injury every year. This injury could happen inside your home or, in some cases, elsewhere. For instance, if your dog bites someone on your property or even on the street or down the block, that is typically covered by your home insurance. The reason: Although we all know that dogs are members of our family, pets are considered property in legal terms. As such, any damage they inflict on others is often covered by insurance, wherever the incident happens. And good thing, too, since the average claim to cover the injured party’s medical bills hovers around $45,000.

All that said, what exactly is covered under a home insurance policy—and what you’ll pay for it—varies by provider. As such, it’s important to shop around and understand your options.

So how much does home insurance cost, and how much do you need? We’ll cover that in future installments of this guide. Stay tuned!

Source: realtor.com

How Much Does Home Insurance Cost? Advice To Find the Best Price

If you’re buying a home, you probably know that paying for the property isn’t the only expense you’ll incur. Among other things, you’ll also want to buy home insurance to protect this valuable asset in the event of unforeseen problems, from damaging hailstorms to theft and beyond.

So how much does home insurance cost? In this second installment of our Home Buyer’s Guide to Home Insurance, we’ll walk you through what you should know about home insurance rates, and how to find the best plan and price.

How much does homeowners insurance cost?

The average annual homeowners insurance premium runs about $1,445. However, it can be much higher or lower based on numerous factors. Here’s a full rundown of what can affect homeowners insurance costs.

  • Condition of your home: This plays a big role in your homeowners insurance rate, and can include everything from the roof to the pipes, heating system, electrical wiring, and age. Your insurer may ask you to provide detailed information about your home; it may also gather information from public records and documents filed with your city and county.
  • Price to rebuild: Another big factor is the price per square foot to rebuild in your area, based on current construction rates. For reference, the national average is between $100 to $200 per square foot. Why does this matter? Because if your house is damaged or completely destroyed and you need to rebuild, your insurer will be footing the bill.
  • Natural disasters in your area: The cost of your homeowners insurance also depends heavily on the likelihood of destructive natural disasters or other incidents. In other words, the more known risk there is to your home, the stiffer the homeowners insurance premium. Homeowners in Oklahoma, where tornadoes wreak havoc every summer, pay an average of $2,559 for home insurance each year, the highest in the nation. Texas is not far behind, at $2,451 per year, thanks to its destructive hurricanes and thunderstorms.
  • Personal information: Your credit score, age, and other personal factors also play a role in your home insurance costs. A higher credit score and few or no insurance claims usually result in a lower rate for home insurance. Generally speaking, the older you are, the lower your premiums. Why? Because older people are less risky for insurers to cover—they tend to spend more time at home, particularly if they’re retired, which means they’ll catch a house fire before it gets out of control.
  • High-risk features: Your homeowners insurance company will also factor in high-risk home features, including swimming pools, trampolines, and even your dog. (Certain breeds have a reputation for being more aggressive, which could lead to expensive insurance claims if your dog bites someone.) Similarly, adding safety features such as a home security system or fire sprinklers can help lower your home insurance rates.

How to find the best price on home insurance

To determine how much you’ll pay for home insurance, contact a few insurance companies by calling to chat with an agent or by filling out a form on their website. After you share some information about you and your home, they’ll run this information through their own algorithms to come up with a quote on how much your insurance will cost.

But here’s the thing: Since each insurance company uses its own formulas to determine a property’s risk levels, each may offer different rates. To get the best price and policy, it pays to shop around.

“You won’t know your homeowners insurance cost until you get quotes,” says Amy Danise, chief insurance analyst at Forbes Advisor. “Quotes are free. And it’s best to get quotes from multiple companies so that you can get a sense of what a good rate will be.”

Many homeowners go with the first homeowners insurance policy quote they get in order to cross one more thing off their list during a move or the home-purchasing process. And that could be a big, costly mistake because you may pay more. But the cheapest home insurance option isn’t always the best, either.

“An informed insurance agent that can shop your home with multiple insurance carriers is your best bet at finding a great rate for your home,” says Erin Wenzel, account manager at Michigan’s Provision Insurance Group.

Ask the agent to explain why the homeowners insurance premiums are different and what the trade-offs are in liability coverage and deductibles. And this isn’t just something you should do when you first buy a home. Every year, you should review your homeowners insurance, including your liability coverage, premium, and deductible.

“Make an effort to get a new quote each year, and shop around if you’re not happy with your current rate,” says Wes Taft, co-founder of moveCHECK.

Homeowners insurance companies hungry for new business offer competitive rates on premiums.

Is homeowners insurance included in the mortgage?

In many cases, homeowners insurance will be part of your monthly mortgage payment. Why? Because your mortgage lender wants to make sure your important house-related bills get paid on time and in full.

As such, you’ll have to pay your lender your monthly home insurance premium along with your mortgage. From there, your lender will keep that insurance money in a special account, called an escrow account, and will pay your insurance bills for you when they come due.

Lenders will often show you a breakdown on their statements of how much of your payment is going to your mortgage (principal and interest) as well as what’s going toward homeowners insurance and any other fees (such as property taxes or homeowners association dues).

In certain situations, you can pay your home insurance company directly, without having to send this money to your lender first, but this isn’t common. Some lenders may offer some flexibility, such as if you made a 20% (or higher) down payment—it just depends on the lender. Also, if you paid for your house in cash or you’ve paid off your mortgage in full, then you’ll need to pay your insurance company directly.

Is homeowners insurance tax-deductible?

No, the money you spend on home insurance is not tax-deductible. The one exception is if it’s for a rental property, in which case home insurance can get deducted from your taxable income.

In addition to shopping around for the best price on insurance, you should make sure you get the right amount and type. That’s what we’ll explore in our next installment: How much insurance do you need?

Source: realtor.com