There are many factors to consider when choosing a homeowners insurance policy, including how much coverage you need for your property, personal belongings, and liability protection.
Your home is one of the most important purchases you’ve ever made, so it makes sense to get the finest homeowners insurance you can afford.
You can protect yourself and your family financially if something happens to your home that causes it to be damaged or if someone is injured while on your property. The assurance that an expensive claim won’t put you in financial peril comes from having a policy that’s specifically customized to your needs.
Although homeowners insurance is not mandated by law, if you have a mortgage, your lender will require it to safeguard your house. You may require additional coverage if you reside in a disaster-prone location. Homeowners insurance covers the cost of repairing or rebuilding your home as well as replacing its contents if they are damaged by a specified risk such as fire, theft, or a weather disaster such as wind or lightning. If you are unfamiliar with homeowners insurance and its policies, you may find yourself paying more than you should for insufficient coverage.
When purchasing a homeowners insurance policy, numerous characteristics of each firm, such as average annual premiums, available coverage options, ability to manage claims, customer happiness, and financial stability, may be vital to consider.
Naturally, you’ll want the greatest price, but you’ll also want the correct combination of coverage from a firm that can afford to pay your claim if calamity hits. Customer service that is dependable is also a benefit. This guide will take you through all of the aspects you should consider when selecting the best insurance company for your house.
What is homeowners insurance?
Homeowners insurance is a collection of coverage options designed to protect your investment in your house. It protects the residence (home), additional structures like fences, and personal items against accidents and problems like house fires and theft.
Homeowners insurance also includes liability coverage, which covers property damage and bodily harm caused by members of your home to others. If you are sued for bodily injury or property damage, liability coverage will pay for your legal defense and settlements.
A normal house insurance policy provides additional living expenses (ALE) coverage, which pays for additional expenditures if you are unable to remain in your home due to damage covered by the policy. Extra costs could include hotel accommodations, restaurant expenditures, and other amenities (such as pet boarding).
It’s not a luxury to have homeowners insurance; it’s a requirement. It’s not merely for the sake of protecting your property from harm or theft. If you’re looking to buy or refinance a home, you’ll almost certainly need to show that you have insurance coverage for the entire value of the property (often the purchase amount).
When it comes to insurance, you don’t even need to own a house; many landlords require their renters to carry renter’s insurance. Regardless of whether or not it’s mandated, it’s a good idea to obtain this form of insurance.
What does homeowners insurance cover?
Homeowners insurance protects your home, detached structures, and personal belongings from damage caused by the losses specified in your policy. Your liability exposure is almost certainly protected as well. Typically, standard insurance includes the following coverages:
Coverage for dwellings
This is the primary coverage provided by homeowners insurance, and it protects your home and any related structures against certain forms of damage, such as fire, theft, and wind. In the case of damage caused by fire, hurricanes, lightning, vandalism, or other covered disasters, your insurer will reimburse you for the cost of repairing or entirely rebuilding your home. Floods, earthquakes, and poor property upkeep are often not covered, and you may need supplementary riders if you want that type of protection. Free Standing garages, sheds, and other structures on the land may also require separate coverage, following the same requirements as the primary residence.
Coverage for personal property
This coverage reimburses you for the cost of repairing or replacing your personal items in the event they are damaged or destroyed. This includes furniture, clothing, cookware, and house decor such as drapes, as well as anything stored in boxes in your basement or attic. You can even choose “off-premises” coverage, which allows you to file a claim for lost jewelry, for example, regardless of where you lost it. However, there may be a cap on the amount your insurer will reimburse you.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, most insurance companies will cover between 50% and 70% of the amount of insurance on your home’s construction. 1 For instance, if your property is insured for $200,000, your valuables are covered up to around $140,000.
If you have a large number of high-priced items (fine art or antiques, expensive jewelry, designer clothing), you may wish to pay an additional premium to have them listed separately, acquire a rider to cover them, or even purchase a second policy.
Coverage of other structures
Also known as “detached structures coverage,” this is often between 10% and 20% of the value of your dwelling and covers items such as fences, sheds, and gazebos.
Coverage for liability
If you cause damage to another person’s property or injure someone on your property and are determined to be at fault, your liability coverage may cover the damages and your legal fees. Liability coverage safeguards you against third-party litigation. This provision extends to your pets as well!
Thus, if your dog attacks your neighbor, Doris, regardless of where the bite occurred, your insurer will cover her medical expenses. Alternatively, if your child damages her Ming vase, you can submit a claim for reimbursement. Additionally, if Doris slips on the broken vase pieces and successfully sues for pain and suffering or lost income, you will be covered for those expenses as well, just as if someone was harmed on your property.
Off-premises liability coverage is frequently excluded from the renter’s insurance policies.
While policies can include as low as $100,000 in coverage, the Insurance Information Institute recommends having at least $300,000 in coverage. A few hundred dollars more in premiums can provide you with an additional $1 million or more in coverage through umbrella insurance.
Additional living expenses (ALE)
Additional living expenses (ALE), often called loss of use, cover the costs of living away from your home if it becomes uninhabitable as a result of damage caused by a covered property claim. Although it is improbable, if you are forced to vacate your house for an extended period of time, this will surely be the best coverage you have ever purchased. This section of insurance, referred to as supplementary living expenses, would reimburse you for rent, hotel accommodations, restaurant meals, and other incidental charges incurred while your house is being repaired. However, before booking a suite at the Ritz-Carlton and ordering caviar from room service, keep in mind that the policies set stringent daily and annual limits. Naturally, you can increase those daily restrictions if you’re prepared to pay a higher premium for coverage.
Most conventional homeowner policies also contain medical payments to others coverage, which covers visitor injuries regardless of fault, up to the policy’s coverage limit. Bear in mind that all plans are unique; you can frequently add endorsements to your policy to increase its coverage. And homeowners insurance is available in a variety of forms, each of which covers a variety of various types of losses.
What isn’t covered by homeowners insurance?
While most scenarios where a loss could occur are covered by homeowner’s insurance, some events, such as natural disasters or other “acts of God” and acts of war, are often excluded from coverage.
What if you live in a flood-prone or hurricane-prone area? Or perhaps an earthquake-prone area? You’ll need riders or an additional policy for earthquake or flood insurance. You can also add sewage and drain backup coverage, as well as identity recovery coverage, which reimburses you for expenditures incurred as a result of identity theft.
Other homeowners insurance considerations
“Schedule” expensive items
Certain items, including jewelry, have “sub-limits,” which means that your insurance carrier will only pay up to a specified amount for them. For instance, a conventional homeowner’s insurance policy often includes a $1,500 sub-limit for jewelry theft.
Consider “scheduling” important objects to insure them adequately. When you schedule personal property, you insure each item for its full worth and then use the coverage provided by your homeowners insurance policy for everything else, such as clothing, rugs, and kitchenware.
Consider replacement cost coverage rather than actual cash value (ACV) coverage
Replacement cost reimburses you for the cost of a new item, whereas ACV reimburses you for the depreciated value of an item. Do you own a five-year-old television set that was destroyed in a fire? Then, under ACV coverage, you would be reimbursed for a five-year-old television.
If you’re seeking the greatest homeowners insurance, get replacement cost coverage.
Purchase endorsements that address specific needs.
Endorsements are optional extras. They are an excellent method to customize your homeowners insurance policy and close coverage gaps. For instance, some insurers offer enhanced coverage for landscaping, home system failure, water backup, and sump overflow.
Purchase supplementary insurance to protect against specific natural disasters
Even the most comprehensive homeowners insurance policies can become invalid if certain natural disasters occur, such as floods, earthquakes, or landslides. These issues are not covered under ordinary homeowners insurance. They necessitate the purchase of specialized policies such as flood and earthquake insurance.
Different types of homeowners insurance
While a single-family home in the suburbs may come to mind as the type of property that requires homeowners insurance, there are actually eight different policy types — or forms — for various property types and coverage requirements.
1. HO-1: Basic Form
The most basic form of homeowners insurance provides the least coverage. Your home and personal items are insured at their real cash worth, and the policy covers only ten designated perils or particular causes of damage or loss:
- Fire or lightning
- Windstorm or hail
- Riot or civil commotion
- Falling objects
2. HO-2: Broad Form
Broad form policies are more prevalent than HO-1s and represent a significant improvement over the basic form policy. HO-2 policies insure the dwelling (often referred to as your home) at its replacement cost and personal items at its real cash value. Additionally, it safeguards your house and personal property from six other identified risks, including the following:
- Weight of ice, snow, or sleet
- Accidental discharge or overflow of water or stream
- Sudden and accidental tearing apart, cracking, burning, or bulging of a built-in appliance like a water heater or centralized air conditioner or heating system
- Sudden and accidental damage from an artificially generated electrical current, like power surges
- Volcanic Eruption
3. HO-3: Special Form
The most prevalent type of homeowners insurance policy on the market is the HO-3 or special form policy, which accounts for the great majority of single-family house policies. HO-3s insure the dwelling against “all dangers” and personal property against the aforementioned identified perils. All-hazards, or open-perils, insurance protects you against all risks save those specifically included in your policy. Among the risks that are frequently excluded are the following:
- Ordinance or law
- Earth movement
- Water damage from flooding, sewer backups, or water that seeps up from the ground
- Power failure
- Nuclear hazard
- Intentional loss
- Government action
- Theft to a dwelling under construction
- Vandalism or malicious mischief (if vacant more than 60 days)
- Mold, fungus, or wet rot (except if it resulted from an accidental discharge or overflow of water)
- Wear and tear
- Mechanical breakdown
- Smog, rust, or other corrosion
- Smoke from agricultural smudging and industrial operations
- Discharge, dispersal, seepage of pollutants
- Settling, shrinking, bulging, or expanding of parts of the structure like your foundation or walls
- Birds, vermin, rodents, insects
- Animals owned by insured
4. HO-4: Contents Broad Form
HO-4 policies, also known as renters insurance, are designed exclusively for persons who lease homes or apartments. Renters insurance protects your personal items both inside and outside the rental property. Additionally, it covers your liabilities (also known as legal charges) and additional living expenses if your flat is damaged and you are forced to relocate temporarily.
Renters insurance provides coverage for the same sixteen identified risks as broad and special form plans. Generally, your personal property is insured at its replacement cost.
5. HO-5: Comprehensive Form
Comprehensive homeowners insurance is exactly what it sounds like; it is the most comprehensive kind of single-family home protection available. While HO-5 policies are fairly similar to HO-3 policies, there are some significant distinctions:
By default, HO-5s insure the dwelling and personal items at their replacement cost. Under the majority of HO-3s, you must include replacement cost coverage for your personal property.
HO-5 plans cover both your house and personal items against any dangers. HO-3s include all-risks coverage for the dwelling but exclude coverage for listed perils personal items.
Additionally, HO-5 insurance provides increased coverage limits for high-value items that are often subject to severe coverage limits, including jewels, fine furs, and some gadgets.
HO-5 plans are often reserved for homes with a high net worth that is located in high-risk locations and require additional coverage. If you obtain coverage from a company such as Chubb or AIG, you are almost certainly receiving HO-5 coverage.
6. HO-6: Unit-owners Form
Also referred to as condo insurance, HO-6 coverage is designed for residents of condominiums or co-ops. The amount of coverage you’ll need in your condo policy will vary depending on what your condo association’s HOA insurance covers.
HOA insurance, or the “master policy,” often covers the structure of the condo building, the common spaces of the complex, and the structure of your unit prior to your move in but does not typically cover improvements or renovations made during your stay. You’ll almost certainly require sufficient dwelling coverage in your condo insurance to cover the cost of any condo renovations you make, such as bespoke light fixtures. Personal property, loss of use, personal liability, medical expenses, and loss assessment coverage are also included in your condo policy.
7. HO-7: Mobile Home Form
Mobile home insurance is similar to an HO-3 policy, but it is expressly designed to cover mobile homes, which are not covered under a standard single-family home policy.
HO-7 policies cover the following types of mobile homes but are not limited to:
- Trailers, travel trailers, fifth-wheel trailers
- Single-wide manufactured and single-wide mobile homes
- Double-wide manufactured and double-wide mobile homes
- Sectional homes
- Modular homes
- Park model homes and RVs
8. HO-8: Modified Coverage Form
HO-8 homeowners insurance is intended for residences that do not meet the insurer guidelines for the majority of homeowner policies. For instance, you may be eligible for an HO-8 only if you reside in an older home that is at high risk of loss owing to faulty wiring, antiquated plumbing, or a collapsing roof. To qualify for HO-3 insurance, you’ll likely need to upgrade your aluminum wiring to copper, build new pipes, and replace your roof.
HO-8 policies, like HO-1 basic form policies, are named peril policies that cover only ten hazards and compensate based on the home’s real cash worth rather than replacement cost.
HO-8 insurance is valuable since they protect your home without requiring complete repairs or a four-point inspection; therefore, if you’re determined to maintain your home precisely as it was built five generations ago, this policy may be for you.
How much does homeowners insurance cost?
According to the latest data from S&P Global, the average yearly premium in the United States was $1,215 in 2019.
The age of your home, the age of your roof, the appraised worth, the size (square footage) of your property, your location, and if you have pets are all considered when setting homeowners rates.
If you reside in a weather-zone or disaster-prone location – flood zones, hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, mudslides, hail, or earthquakes — your premium will increase because this coverage is not included in the standard policy and must be purchased as add-on riders.
According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) most recent Homeowners Insurance Report, homeowners insurance costs on average by property value in the United States are as follows:
|Estimated home value||Average annual homeowners insurance premium|
|$49,999 and under||$645|
|$50,000 to $74,999||$748|
|$75,000 to $99,999||$826|
|$100,000 to $124,999||$888|
|$125,000 to $149,999||$937|
|$150,000 to $174,999||$981|
|$175,000 to $199,999||$1,018|
|$200,000 to $299,999||$1,114|
|$300,000 to $399,999||$1,272|
|$400,000 to $499,999||$1,482|
|$500,000 and above||$2,148|
How to find the best homeowners insurance?
Homeowners insurance isn’t one-size-fits-all; the greatest business for a frugal homeowner may not be the best provider for someone who appreciates excellent customer service. Most homeowner insurance companies in business take into account financial scores, customer service and claims satisfaction ratings, policy discounts, and additional coverage options.
Every typical homeowners insurance policy provides the same basic coverage; however, other firms offer more extensive coverage and additional protection at a lower cost. To get the greatest house insurance policy at the best price, it’s critical to search around and compare rates – even if it means spending extra time reading homeowners insurance reviews.
There could be dozens of homeowners insurance providers in your area, so how do you pick the best one for you? Here are a few things you can do:
Determine the extent to which you require coverage
Finding the finest homes insurance company for you begins with selecting the appropriate coverage. While normal insurance protects your home and other structures, the amount of coverage you require is determined by the cost of rebuilding your property.
Additionally, you’ll need to examine the size of your insurance deductible (the amount you pay out of cash in the event of a claim) and whether you require additional coverage for costly objects. You may also wish to update your policy to include coverage for earthquake damage or to ensure that you can replace old things with new ones following a loss rather than being compensated for their depreciated value.
By determining your coverage requirements before comparing house insurance companies, you can ensure that each policy you select provides the same degree of protection. Moreover, you can eliminate companies that do not offer the alternatives you choose.
Do a homeowners insurance quotes comparison
Following the definition of your coverage requirements, you may begin shopping for homeowners insurance. You should compare house insurance quotes from at least three different companies to ensure you’re getting the best deal possible.
According to a rough estimate, homeowners insurance will cost an average of roughly $132 per month in 2021. However, rates can vary significantly because no two homes are identical, and each insurer calculates premiums and rebates using its own algorithm.
You can shop for house insurance quotes online or over the phone, or you can work with an insurance agent or broker to discover the best deal. Whichever path you take, compare policies with comparable coverage and deductibles.
Furthermore, keep in mind that a home’s insurance quote is an estimate. Your quote may change if an insurance company inspects your home and finds that you require a higher level of coverage.
Conduct a search for homeowners insurance discounts
The majority of firms offer a typical set of house insurance discounts, which include savings for having several policies with the same insurer (for example, home and auto insurance), installing safety and security equipment in your home, and avoiding claims for consecutive years.
Apart from that, you’ll notice changes in the quantity and sort of discounts provided. Matching the discounts your property qualifies for ensures that you not only obtain the coverage you desire but also profit from your home’s investment.
Monitor customer satisfaction and complaints
If you choose a homeowners insurance company with a reputation for customer satisfaction, you can be confident that you will have a positive experience.
To determine whether prior customers were satisfied, you can consult J.D. Power’s yearly poll of thousands of homeowners on homeowner insurance and property claim satisfaction. Consumer Reports also conducts polls of its members regarding their experiences with homeowners insurance, but comparing the results requires a paid membership.
Another source of information on insurance companies’ performance is the NAIC website. You can learn how many complaints an insurer received from state regulators, the reasons for the complaints, and whether the number of complaints exceeded expectations for a company of its size.
Consider financial viability
You’ll want to purchase homes insurance from a financially secure firm that has sufficient funds to cover claims. Financial strength is one indicator of an insurer’s compliance with that requirement. You can determine a company’s financial strength by contacting a rating agency such as A.M. Best.
We would recommend the insurers with an A- or higher rating. According to the research, any company with a B+ or better rating has a “good” ability to pay its obligations. Businesses with ratings lower than that may not be as safe a bet and frequently have greater complaint rates relative to their size.
Recognize your requirements
Do you live in an area prone to wind damage? How much would it cost to rebuild your house? Do you own any specialized items that may necessitate additional coverage? Understanding what you require from a homeowners insurance company is frequently the first step in determining the ideal insurer for your needs.
Determine what is important to you
Would you feel more at ease with a local agent who understands the region and can guide you through the insurance purchasing process? Do you like to manage your policies digitally? Do you value customer service? Analyzing third-party evaluations may assist you in determining whether or not a firm is a good fit for you.
Once you’ve determined what you’re looking for in insurance, you can obtain estimates from a variety of property insurers. According to the Insurance Information Institute, most firms provide a distinct combination of supplemental coverage kinds and discounts, so receiving at least three quotes lets you compare (Triple-I). Furthermore, even for the same level of coverage, costs might vary dramatically amongst firms.
Periodically review your insurance coverage
Life changes and your insurance should, too. If you have a life event, such as getting married, having a child, or experiencing a homeowners insurance loss, you should consult with your insurance provider or agent to assess your needs. This ensures that you get the coverage and policy features that are right for you. We suggest that you undertake an annual insurance assessment with your agent to ensure that you have the appropriate quantities and types of coverage.
How to calculate how much homeowners insurance you need?
When it comes time to purchase insurance through your selected house insurance company, you must also select homeowners insurance policy limits, which are the monetary amounts up to which policyholders are reimbursed in the event of a claim. At the same time, the insurer will assist you in calculating dwelling expenses depending on the specifics of your property in order to obtain the most competitive homeowners insurance rates possible.
The best way to determine the appropriate amount of coverage for your home is to utilize inventory software to calculate and list all of your possessions along with their prices.
When determining how much homeowner insurance to purchase from a business, there are two critical aspects to consider. These include the following:
Coverage: Standard homeowners insurance policies contain coverage for liability, personal property, and structure/dwelling. However, each home requires unique coverage based on its location, age, and features. Homeowners in disaster-prone locations, for instance, should consider earthquake or flood insurance.
Decide on your policy’s limits: Ascertain that the dwelling coverage will cover the cost of reconstructing the home if it is fully destroyed and that the personal property coverage will cover the cost of replacing personal property within the home. At the very least, your liability coverage should cover your net worth or the total value of your assets less any obligations.
Why location matters when choosing homeowners insurance?
Home insurers calculate your rate using a variety of rating factors, and your location — including your state, city, ZIP code, claims history, and proximity to the fire brigade and fire hydrants — can have a significant impact on the cost of coverage. Look for the average house insurance premiums offered by carriers in your state to get an idea of how much your homeowners insurance might cost.
The average annual cost of homeowners insurance in the United States is $1,312 for $250,000 in dwelling coverage. However, different regions of the country have unique risk variables that impact premiums.
For instance, a homeowner living by the shore may need to consider the effects of hurricanes, but someone living in the Rocky Mountains may need to consider the effects of heavy snow and wildfires. Acquainting yourself with the dangers and prevalent causes of loss in your state may help you make a more informed selection about your home’s insurance policy.
How do I file a homeowners insurance claim?
This is dependent on the company with which you are affiliated. The majority of carriers provide a claims center that you can contact 24 hours a day to file a claim, and many also offer online claim submission options. If your firm offers a mobile application, you may also be able to submit a claim using your smartphone. You will need your policy number and some information about the loss when filing a claim. You’ll almost certainly need to describe what occurred when it occurred and the extent of the harm incurred. Additionally, it is prudent to photograph the damage and retain all receipts for any out-of-pocket expenses paid as a result of the loss.
Cost-Cutting insurance tips
While it is never a good idea to skimp on coverage, there are strategies to reduce insurance prices.
Keep a security system in place
A burglar alarm monitored by a central station or directly connected to a local police station can help homeowners save up to 5% or more on their annual insurance costs. To qualify for the reduction, the homeowner must normally present proof of central monitoring to the insurance company in the form of a bill or a contract.
Smoke alarms are another significant addition. While they are commonplace in the majority of new homes, adding them in older homes can save homeowners 10% or more on annual insurance costs. Additionally, CO detectors, deadbolt locks, sprinkler systems, and, in rare circumstances, weatherproofing can aid.
Increase your deductible amount
As with health or auto insurance, the larger the deductible selected by the homeowner, the lower the annual charges. However, the disadvantage of choosing a large deductible is that claims/problems that generally cost only a few hundred dollars to resolve—such as broken windows or damaged sheetrock caused by a leaking pipe—will almost always be paid by the homeowner. And these can accumulate.
Consider multi-policy discounts.
Numerous insurance firms offer a 10% or more discount to customers who keep additional insurance contracts under the same roof (such as auto or health insurance). Consider requesting a quote from the same company that provides your homeowners insurance for other forms of insurance. You may find that you save money on two premiums.
Prepare for renovations in advance
Consider the materials that will be utilized to construct an addition or an adjacent structure to your home. Typically, wood-framed constructions are more expensive to insure due to their high flammability. On the other hand, cement- or steel-framed constructions are less expensive since they are less prone to fire or harsh weather conditions.
Another factor that most homeowners should consider but sometimes overlook is the insurance costs connected with pool construction. Indeed, pools and/or other potentially dangerous devices (such as trampolines) can increase annual insurance premiums by 10% or more.
Complete your mortgage payment
While this is easier said than done, homeowners who own their homes outright will almost certainly see their premiums decrease. Why? The insurance company believes that if you own a property completely, you will take better care of it.
Conduct routine policy evaluations and comparisons
Regardless of the initial quote, you should conduct comparison shopping, including searching for group coverage possibilities through credit or labor unions, businesses, or organization memberships. And even after obtaining a policy, investors should compare the costs of competing insurance policies to their own at least once a year. Additionally, they should check their current policy and keep track of any changes that may have resulted in a reduction in their rates.
Perhaps you dismantled the trampoline, paid off the mortgage, or constructed an elaborate sprinkler system. If this is the case, alerting the insurance company of the change(s) and providing proof in the form of photographs and receipts may result in a large reduction in insurance premiums. Certain companies offer credits for entire plumbing, electrical, heating, and roofing upgrades.
Make monthly appraisals of your most important assets to determine if you have adequate coverage to replace them. According to John Bodrozic, co-founder of HomeZada, a home maintenance software, “many consumers are underinsured on their contents policy because they have not completed a house inventory and added the overall worth to compare to what the policy covers.”
Additionally, keep an eye out for changes in the neighborhood that may result in a reduction in rates. For instance, installing a fire hydrant within 100 feet of the residence or erecting a fire substation in close proximity to the property may result in a reduction in rates.
Buying a home is one of the best investments you can make. To ensure that this investment reaps long-term advantages, it is prudent to insure it against unanticipated disasters. Insurance for your home is the most secure way to safeguard your investment. However, the primary issue with homeowners’ insurance is its complexity.
Selecting the appropriate homeowners insurance policy can be a difficult undertaking. Homeowners must not only assess their dangers and living conditions but also compare insurers’ rates, customer service, and claim reimbursement efficiency objectively.
It is critical to understand what you are signing up for in order to get the most appropriate homeowners’ insurance policy. If you’re looking for an insurance binder or want to acquire a homeowners’ insurance policy that provides you with more alternatives and value for your money, contact your insurance agent immediately.