You know those ads where you can go to one website – usually owned by an insurance company – and get quotes from a bunch of different insurance companies and directly compare the rates? Those don’t always paint the full picture. I’m not saying those websites are lying, but you can only really get an exact quote for coverage of your home by going through a full questionnaire with the company directly – and usually with a human being. I know – that dreamy world where we don’t have to interact with each other isn’t quite here yet. Sigh. Plus, there’s more to insurance than what you pay monthly – there’s that whole service thing that occurs should you need to make a policy change or – hopefully not – a claim. I recently secured new home insurance and here’s some things I discovered along the way:
- Word-of-mouth testimonials are among the best. Talk to your friends, co-workers or neighbors about who handles their insurance. Have they ever had to make a claim? Are their associates easy to get ahold of? Did they provide what they said they would? Have they hiked up rates unexpectedly?
- Your workplace or associations may have a group discount plan already that you can take advantage of. Even some universities have some alumni partners that you can get a discount through.
- Some loyalty cards like Airmiles have special offers if you sign up with a new insurance provider. Look around and see if any of these are worthwhile to you.
- Bringing all your insurance needs – like auto and life – to one company can sometimes provide you with a “bundle discount“.
- Find out if you get rewarded for not having a history of claims (or would pay more if you do have a claim history). Should you not have to make any claims with the company after a couple years, will your premiums go down?
- Give the most accurate, detailed information about your home. If you have a home inspection, use that. If your home is older and did not get an inspection, the insurance company may insist on one (but will likely pay for it themselves). Some things you should know about your home before starting the quoting process include: year it was built, size of your home, updates (like when it was last fixed and with what materials) in regards to the roof, wiring, plumbing and heating systems, general construction materials, additional structures (like a garage or shed), doors (are they deadbolted?), and how close it is to a fire hydrant (use Google Street View to confirm!) and a fire house.
- Things you can do to improve the security of your home can often positively impact your rates – like fire alarms, a security alarm or system, deadbolt locks, a fire extinguisher, and motion-activated exterior lighting.
- Have a list of anything that would be in your home that is of especially high value – like original paintings and jewelry – that may require additional coverage.
- Is the deductible reasonable? Anything stolen or damaged that is valued below this rate would not be covered by the insurance company.
- Does the evaluation of your property, its contents, liabilities and any other expenses (like paying for you to live somewhere else while major repairs are being made) more than cover your needs / the value you place on the home?
- Does the policy properly protect you against all reasonable dangers and risks? Would you need to pay more to be specially protected by various acts of nature like flooding or tornadoes – or is that already covered (not likely!). Even things like sewage back-up protection isn’t always a part of standard policies – so ask!
- Do you need to pay into a policy for a set time (like an annual contract)? Are you able to fully review the policy before officially signing up? Are there any penalties for breaking the policy early?
If you’re not sure about something about the insurance being offered, ask them – and tell them you want it in plain English, too! If they refuse to provide you with information that is not in lawyer-speak, consider it a red flag. Don’t be afraid to tell insurance companies that you’re comparison shopping. Sometimes the provider you like best may be willing to match a lower price your found with their competitors.
Have additional thoughts or tips on home insurance providers and quotes? Share them with us in the comments below!