Tips to Consider When Buying Homeowner’s Insurance

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By Frank N. Darras

In this down economy, you want to make sure you are protecting one of your most valuable assets – your home. While short-term values have fallen, if you look at home values over a 5-to 15-year period, they have still increased. Do you have enough homeowner’s insurance to replace your house should the unthinkable happen? Does your current policy cover completely rebuilding your home? Have there been any building code upgrades in your city or town for slab thickness, footings or foundations? Do you have enough liability coverage should something happen to someone else on your property? If your answer is “no” to any of these questions, you need to revisit your home owner coverage.

Here is a checklist to help you through the process and save some money:

  • Determine the limits you want on your homeowners insurance, what value you need to insure and then get multiple quotes. Be sure to look at “guaranteed replacement coverage” when determining what you need. Don’t forget about appurtenant structures like guest cottages or garages separated from your residence.  Remember its not just the structure but your hardscape outside, trees, shrubs, bushes along with the value of everything inside the structure of the home (furniture, fixtures, jewelry, artwork, etc.).
  • Consider purchasing your homeowner, auto and umbrella insurance with the same company so that multi-coverage discounts will apply. Get multiple quotes based on the same coverage amount and deductibles.   Buy from a company that has an excellent record of paying their claims.
  • Having smoke, burglar alarms, deadbolts and a sprinkler system could mean bigger discounts.
  • Always buy insurance from a company you recognize.  Once you are ready to buy, ask for an exemplar of the policy, so your agent/broker can walk you through it to make sure it covers what you thought you bought.  Ask questions.  What if a tornado ripped through my neighborhood and leveled my home, does my policy cover additional liing expenses to put my family up in comparable surroundings till my home is repaired?  Can I get an advance in my personal property coverage to buy clothes, food and necessaries if disaster strikes?
  • Ask your agent what documentation you need to substantiate a claim, in case of theft or fire. Make sure you videotape all of you personal property including what is in the drawers, closets, cabinets, your safe and the garage and tool shed and send the recording to someone you trust for safekeeping.

Liability insurance protects you against lawsuits should someone get hurt on your property. It is important to have enough coverage to protect you against a lawsuit if someone slips, trips or gets hurt on your property. Avoid being underinsured, as it will cost you more in the long run should something unforeseen happen.

Should someone get injured on your property, a civil suit may be filed against you so be sure you know what your limits of liability are and give strong consideration to umbrella coverage.

An umbrella policy gives you the protection that you need should a disaster happen on your property, driving your car, motorcycle, jet ski or boat.  Umbrella policies offer millions of dollars of insurance protection for minimum monthly premiums. As the name implies, it can cover everything from your car to your home. It is designed to pick up where your regular policy leaves off and to prevent catastrophic financial disaster.

Umbrella policies were once thought to be insurance for only wealthy people, who were often targets of expensive lawsuits. However, today it is wise for anyone to have this type of coverage to protect their homes and other assets. Don’t be the person who thinks, “It can’t happen to me.” It can.

Shop carefully and always get advice from an expert you trust.

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