Monday, February 2, 2009, AM | 8 Comments
When you are out in the market looking to buy a house, monthly mortgage is not the only item for budgeting your monthly cash outflow. In addition, you have to pay for property tax, house maintenance and maybe some repair, and most importantly, your home insurance. Your house, needless to say, is the roof over your head.
Fire, storms, floods and other natural and not so natural disasters can happen and they do happen. You must be prepared for those times. And that means an adequate home insurance policy.
Might want to be discrete
Here’s how to make sure you get the right coverage. While plans may vary from insurer to insurer, a standard homeowner’s policy generally has some distinct components to it. You might not want to get all kinds of insurance that I have mentioned here, but it is better to feel safer now, knowing that you are adequately protected, than feel sorry later. If it can happen to people in a far away land, it can happen to any of us living anywhere.
Word of caution
Every kind of insurance has to be explicitly stated. What is covered and for how much? There should be no ambiguity whatsoever in any statement and you must understand it. If not, then hire a reliable and trustworthy lawyer, with good and established references, to go over the policy with you.
When buying a policy, be sure to shop around, since prices can vary considerably.
For starters, check in with the insurer that covers your car. Companies often give discounts to consumers with multiple policies.
Check in with neighbors and ask them about the company they use and how satisfied they have been with the service they have received.
Insurer’s background check
When you have a few reasonable quotes, do a background check. Ask the companies what kind of ratings they have from the leading firms like Standard & Poors, or Weiss. And remember, it’s not all about the bottom line. If a company takes months to process your claim or is in financial trouble, a price break may not be worth it.
Some say this is the most important coverage that you must have.
- Physical damage
It covers physical damage to the structure of your house from fire, storms and other disasters.
- 100% rebuild-cost
The best thing you can do is to insure your home for 100 percent of what it would cost to rebuild it. In the case of fire, if the house is destroyed completely to the ground and it has to be rebuilt, you will then have adequate funds.
- Determine rebuild-cost
- Books & Software
In addition, Craftsman has Try it/Buy it software that you can download as well as a book-series for building and rebuilding.
- Physical damage
Most plans will also cover the cost of replacing your personal belongings if they are stolen or lost in a fire or other insured disaster. The standard coverage limit is equal to 50 percent of the value of the structure of your home.
To make sure this is adequate, make a detailed list of the contents of your home, including furniture, clothing, tools and appliances. Or you can download software from Insurance Information Institute’s free home inventory software.
Homeowners insurance does not provide coverage for flood damage. But you must have flood protection, if you live near one of these areas:
- Low-lying area – near a creek
- Other similar areas
Most companies that sell homeowners insurance also sell flood insurance, so try contacting your own insurance company for more information.
Federal flood insurance is available to communities that participate in the National Flood Insurance Program. You can purchase a policy directly from your insurer. If you are not sure what your risk may be, you can assess it at the flood insurance program’s site.
Also, make sure you are covered for earthquake damage as well.
A standard policy covers you in three ways.
- Other people’s property
It covers damage to other people’s property. If your son accidentally throws a ball through your neighbor’s window, your policy will cover the cost of the damages.
- Personal liability
It covers personal liability. If someone sues you or the courts find that you are legally responsible for someone else’s injury or property damage, your policy pays for both the cost of defending you in court and any court awards – up to the limit of your policy.
- Medical expenses
It also covers medical expenses for injuries suffered by others. If a friend or neighbor is injured in your home, he or she can simply submit medical bills to your insurance company.
- Other people’s property
Disaster living insurance
Should a fire or any other insured calamity destroy your home and force you to leave, your plan will cover your expenses. In general, this coverage includes hotel bills, restaurant meals and rental car bills. Many policies provide coverage equal to about 20 percent of the coverage on your house.
If you are ever in an auto accident that is the result of your negligence, all of your assets – including your home – could be subject to liability claims if the claims exceed the liability limits of your auto insurance policy.
You should re-evaluate the existing liability limits on your auto insurance policy to make sure that you have adequate coverage to protect your home.
- Personal Umbrella Liability Policy
Talk to your insurance agent about separate umbrella liability policy. In general, the personal umbrella policy is excess liability insurance that provides protection that is over and above that provided by auto, home, and boat insurance.
People with significant assets need an umbrella liability policy to cover lawsuits that can sometimes amount to millions of dollars.
Would you be able to make your monthly mortgage payments if you were unable to work due to an accident or illness? A disability insurance policy will pay you a monthly benefit to replace a portion of your income until you are able to work again.
Many employers provide disability insurance for their employees. If your employer does not offer disability insurance or if you are self-employed, you can purchase an individual disability policy.
What if you were to die before your mortgage was paid off? Would your family be able to keep up with the remaining mortgage payments? Life insurance can provide your family with the funds to pay off their debts, as well as replace a portion of your income.
While many employers offer some level of life insurance coverage to their employees, this amount of coverage may not be enough to provide financial security to your family.
Go for a high deductible. A policy with a $1,000 deductible will be considerably less than one with a $500 one, and the odds are that you will not be making many small claims.
Be sure to ask your insurer about discounts. If you have protected your home by installing smoke detectors, an alarm system or fire retardant roofing material, you may qualify for a lower premium – but you have to ask. In addition, if you are over 55 and retired, you may be able to get a price break since mature individuals are considered a lower risk.
Keep your policy up to date
If you remodel your kitchen, buy an expensive new painting, or add a new wing to your home, let your insurer know and adjust your coverage accordingly. But if your home’s market value falls, don’t rush to lower your coverage. The cost to rebuild will probably not change.
In a Nutshell
Any kind of insurance is for future protection – yours and your family’s. Do research. Obviously, you have access to the Internet. Use your favorite search engine to search for all kinds of insurance. Educate yourself before you talk to your insurance agent.