One of the exciting adventures in our modern day lifestyle is the one revolving around the decision as to where we will live and under what circumstances we will live.
Some may be satisfied with renting all their life leaving the responsibilities of ownership up to the landowner, while others can’t wait to purchase their “little piece of heaven.”
If one falls in the category of wanting to own a home, several things should be considered in order to make that an enriching experience. Here are 12 things you can do to help control the cost of homeowner insurance:
1. Shop Around
It is worth your time to shop around before deciding who you will insure with. Visit the office of local agents to get a feel of how they conduct their business, how they treat their clients, what services they provide. How are they rated by rating companies like A. M. Best (www.ambest.com) and Standard and Poor (www.standardandpoors.com). This will assure you the company is financially solvent to be able to pay claims. According to Nerd Wallet, consumers can save an average of $859 per year, or nearly $70 per month, just by shopping around. You can also contact the state insurance regulators for information on local insurance companies.
Online insurance quote services are becoming quite in vogue now so if you aren’t concerned with having the same agent or local agency, these outlets may provide you with a good opportunity to cut your homeowner insurance costs. With the rise in the use of bots and A.I. your online experience will be convenient and relatively stress free. The insurance industry sees this as a way of doing business in the future, so many of the main line insurance companies are changing their business model to accommodate this new breed of consumers. Don’t be afraid of trying it. It will give you a good comparison to the model of doing insurance quotes now.
2. Maintain Good Credit
Insurance companies are always looking for ways to reduce potential or future claims. They have determined that your credit score somehow correlates with your risk factor, and they review this score usually on a yearly basis. When they do, they are required to advise you of any adverse action that report may be having on your homeowner premium. They will normally state they did not set the criteria for your score so you have to get that from the company being used by your insurer. Paying your bills on time, avoiding more credit than needed and then keeping balances low, avoid getting vehicle citations or wrecks also can help with your score. If you are uncertain of what is affecting your score, check with the company doing the scoring.
Here are a few educational resources on the basics of maintaining good credit. It is surprising how many people either ignore these concepts, or just don’t pay close enough attention to them.
Resources for Building Good Credit
3. Bundle Your Insurance Coverage
Many companies will now give you substantial discounts when you allow them to package your homeowner, auto coverage, and liability. They do this because they have found that more than one line of business being insured is a more stable market, and underwriting and processing expenses tend to be lower as well. Having indicating this as a way to reduce your homeowner premium cost, it would be wise to compare the combination of coverages as opposed to keeping each risk separated with individual policies.
Here are some examples of insurance companies with bundle discounts. Most, if not all offer some sort of discounts for multi-line coverage:
- Mobile Home
4. Stay with the Same Insurer
It will not reduce your homeowner costs immediately, but loyalty to a company should be one of the things you want to consider because many insurance companies do recognize that loyalty with discounts down the road. It also gives you some peace of mind of knowing who you are going to be dealing with when you have insurance issues. Be sure to ask whichever company you plan to insure with about their loyalty discounts. There are some reports of companies raising rates of long-time customers prior to giving the discounts, so do your homework!
5. Shy Away from Government-Sponsored Insurance Plans
Even though there are times when government insurance plans should be considered, i.e. flood or hurricane (NFIA), other alternatives are still available. An agent licensed to sell the NFIA (National Flood Insurance Agency) WYO (Write Your Own) program is also licensed to sell private insurance policies with the same coverages which also may have additional benefits attached. This is not a major method of reducing homeowner insurance costs, but in some high risk areas along the coast lines and hurricane alleys, it is worth keeping in mind.
6. Improve Home Security
Many companies are giving discounts to insureds who take efforts to reduce potential losses. They look favorably on adding home security systems, gun safes, motion detection, deadbolt locks, burglary and fire systems, fire extinguishers, and sprinkler systems. These individual precautions can get up to 15-25% breaks on insurance. The only downside to these efforts may be the initial cost which would discourage a homeowner from doing them– definitely a factor to be measured over time. Here are some great tips, including an infographic on increasing home security: https://www.summitdefense.com/blog/theft/burglary/burglary-prevention-tips-san-jose-police/.
7. Make Your Home Less Vulnerable to Disaster
If you live in a heavily vegetated area with trees and underbrush, clear them away to a safe distance. Make sure tall grass and shrubs are kept away from foundation vents which in the event of a ground fire provides a pathway for fire to get into the house. In an older home make sure you keep an eye out for faulty wiring, deteriorating plumbing, and worn out roof. Pride of ownership does help with renewal insurance premiums. In fact, again, on older homes it may make the difference whether or not the insurance company will renew your insurance.
- Clear Vegetation and Underbrush Away From the Home to a Safe Distance
- Make Sure Grass and Shrubs are Kept Away from Foundation Vents
- Watch for Faulty Wiring
- Update Deteriorating Plumbing
- Consider a New Roof
- Keep an Eye on Nearby Trees That May be Decaying
8. Pay Attention to Coverage Limits
Review your policy coverage limits on a regular basis preferably annually. In the early 60’s insurance companies were finding when losses occurred homes were way under insured. People bought their insurance and then did nothing to keep up with building or inflation costs. In order to offsets this issue, companies began to automatically add inflation cost coverages to policies. The intent was to make sure dwelling values kept pace with inflation and provided an equitable premium to cover the risk. In many instances, this automatic inflation provision has gotten out of control due to the inflation factor not be constant but the percent of inflation applied by the insurance company has. This should be reviewed. Also, some specialty items you may have insured on riders attached to your policy should be reviewed ie the boat you purchased for $40000 may now be only $20000, the $8,000 ATV now only $5000 or five year old $6000 camera now worth $500. Pay attention to the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves.
9. Only Insure What Needs to be Insured
When you purchase your home, you need to remember a portion of the mortgage is to cover the value of the land your home sits on. It’s not at risk for perils insured for under your homeowner policy; therefore, don’t pay premium on that land value. Most mortgage holders are going to push hard to have their total loan amount showing as being insured, but if you check your state regulations you will find a clause in their banking regulations something like this found in the Idaho code: “Residential mortgage practice Act, Section 12.01, 10-060 Prohibited Practices–Require excessive insurance–” require a borrower to obtain or maintain fire insurance or hazard insurance amount that exceeds the replacement value of the improvements to the real estate (3.29.10.) In simple terms, homeowner insurance is only required up to the amount of replacement value of the improvements. If you have a $800,000 valued home overlooking a glistening lake with majestic mountains in the background with $300,000 of its value in land, that can make a great deal of difference in insurance premium paid out over the 30 year mortgage. If you would like a copy of your state’s regulation, contact your Insurance Commissioner’s Office and they can instruct you on how to obtain a copy.
10. Accept More of the Risk
There are some things you just need to recognize as not worth the money to insure any more. For example, a computer which is more than six months old, an outdated ATV, the no longer used teeth braces you insured when your daughter’s teeth needed straightened, or the mountain bike you no longer ride. These are a few of the riders people have added to their insurance but have long forgotten they did. Some of these items will still have limited coverage but you won’t be paying an extra premium to have them insured. Also, look at your deductible. Does it really need to be $250? Wouldn’t a deductible of $1000 giving a premium break of 20% make more sense? It wouldn’t take a lot of years to make up the $750 even if you had a loss.
11. Be Creative
Mention to your insurance agent that you are retired and see if that would qualify you for additional discount. If you have no pets like a pit bull dog, or horses, would that affect the liability premium? Check your professional associations to see if they have special discounts with some companies, i.e. AARP, NRA, Cattlemen’s Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, Association of Retired Policemen.
If you are truly into saving premium dollars, these few ideas may put your foot onto an interesting adventure worth the time spent. It also will give you some entertaining moments with your local insurance agent professional. He or she will be impressed with your interest and savvy in obtaining the best insurance for a fair price.
12. Consider Location Before a Home Purchase
This tip, obviously has to be done before purchasing a home, but in any community you will live in, insurance companies along with local fire rating agencies have established protection classes used to calculate fire premiums. Several factors are used to establish these rates, i.e. availability of police presence, availability of sufficient water, location of fire hydrants and fire stations, training of firefighters, crime rates, exposure to potential fire hazards, etc. These protection classes are rated from 1 to 10 with 1 being the best protected areas and 10 being considered basically an unprotected area. In addition to using a protection class to determine premium, insurance companies will use age, condition, nearness to fire hydrant or fire station, deadbolt lock features, type of construction, loss experience, smoker or non smoker.
Taking time to consider all these factors may save you more money than simply switching insurance companies, which can sometimes end up saving money on the surface, but often result in reducing coverage in some areas. When it comes to insurance it always best to be a well-informed consumer.