If you are a homeowner, you need homeowner’s insurance. Period. Protecting what is mostly likely the biggest investment of your life with a relatively small monthly payment is so important, that, if you disagree, I’m afraid we are so fundamentally opposed on the most basic elements of personal finance that nothing I say will register with you.
If, however, you have homeowner’s insurance, or–through some innocent lapse–need homeowner’s insurance and you just want some more information, welcome!
The basic principle of insurance is simple. You bet against the insurance company that you or your property are going to get hurt. If you’re right, you win whatever your policy limit is. If you’re wrong, the insurance company cleans up with your monthly premium. Insurance is gambling that something bad will happen to you. If you lose, you win!
Now, there are some things about homeowner’s insurance that you may not realize.
1. Homeowner’s insurance will not protect you against a flood. For that you need flood insurance. The easiest way to tell which policy covers water damage is to see if the water touched the ground before your house. An overflowing river, or heavy rain that seeps through the ground and your foundation are both considered flooding. On the other hand, hail breaking your windows and allowing the rain in or a broken pipe are both generally covered by your homeowner’s policy.
Do you need flood insurance? I would say that, if you live on the coast below sea level, you should have flood insurance. If you’re on a flood plain, you need flood insurance. If you’re not sure, use the handy tool at http://www.floodsmart.gov to rate your risk and get an estimate on premium costs. My home is in moderate-to-low risk of flooding, so full coverage starts at $120.
2. You can negotiate an insurance claim. When you have an insurance adjuster inspecting your home after you file a claim, most of the time they will lowball you. Generous adjusters don’t get brought in for the next round of claims. If you know the replacement costs are higher than they are offering, or even if you aren’t sure, don’t sign! Once you sign, you are locked into a contract with the insurance company. Take your time and do your research. Get a contractor out to give you a damage estimate, if you can.
3. Your deductible is too low. If you’ve built up an emergency fund, you can safely boost your deductible to a sizable percentage of that fund and save yourself a bunch of money. When we got our emergency fund up to about $2000, we raised our deductible from $500 to $1000 and saved a couple of hundred dollars per year. That change pays for itself every 2 years we don’t have a claim. I absolutely wouldn’t recommend this if you don’t have the money to cover your deductible, but, if you do, it can be a great money-saver.
Bonus tip: If you get angry that your homeowner’s insurance doesn’t cover flooding, even if you haven’t had to deal with a flood, and you cancel your insurance out of spite, and you subsequently have a ton of hail damage, your insurance company won’t cover the crap that happened during the window where you weren’t their customer.
Are you one of the misguided masses who prefer to trust their home to fate?
Do you have an insurance horror story?