If you’ve never bought a house before, you might not know how to get home insurance quotes. Just like auto insurance pays out if you’re in an accident, homeowners insurance pays out if something happens to your house. If a windstorm blows shingles off your roof, or a tree falls on your garage, your homeowners insurance helps you pay for repairs.
A home is often your biggest investment, and you’ll want to make sure you have a policy in place to protect it — not to mention, if you have a mortgage loan, your lender will require you to carry insurance. This includes appropriate coverage amounts and premiums you can afford. There’s more that goes into picking an insurance provider than price, though.
According to Cory Brandt, an experienced agent in the Sammamish, Washington, area, when shopping for home insurance, “One common misconception people have is that they make it all about price. Think about the overall relationship with an agent or insurer. It’s good to have an advocate on your side.”
With so much to think about when picking a home insurance policy, it can get overwhelming. Here’s a breakdown of everything you need to know about how to get home insurance quotes.
How do I get home insurance quotes?
Before going out to get home insurance quotes, you’ll need to determine the level and type of coverage you need. Your homeowners insurance policy should cover your home’s value and its replacement cost. It should also protect against any risks that the structure, outbuildings, or your geographic area present.
Homeowners insurance: The basics
Mortgage lenders require that you carry homeowners insurance on your house. If you’re financing your purchase, you’ll need proof of insurance before the closing. This is because your home serves as collateral for the mortgage loan. Lenders want to make sure the home is fully insured to protect the home’s value, should anything happen.
If you pay cash for your residence, it’s still a good idea to have insurance. Accidents happen, windstorms damage roofs, and even if you had the money to buy your home outright, that doesn’t mean you’d have the money to replace it if something were to happen to it.
All homeowners need some type of insurance, so you will need to know how to get home insurance quotes.
Types of homeowners insurance
There are three different types of homeowners insurance. The best option for you will provide the necessary coverage to protect your investment with a reasonable premium and affordable deductible.
The highest level of coverage, HO-5, or an “open perils” policy, insures your house and personal property, includes liability protection, and covers medical payments unless the policy specifically excludes something. It consists of the following clauses:
- Dwelling coverage: Covers repairs or rebuilding your home if it’s damaged or destroyed in a covered event
- Personal property: Replaces stolen or damaged personal property
- Personal liability: Covers medical bills and potential lawsuits if someone is injured on your property
- Medical payments: Pays the medical bills of anyone injured on your property
With an HO-5 policy, you have more customization options. You can choose a policy that either pays out the actual cost or the replacement cost of your personal property. For example, the actual cost would be the current value of your television, where the replacement cost gives you the amount of money you’d need to buy a new one.
Payouts for medical payments might pay for an ambulance, bills for treatment, or surgery. You can adjust the maximum benefit your policy provides for medical payments. A policy that covers the replacement cost of personal property and has higher limits for medical payments will also have higher premiums.
In summary: an HO-5 policy gives you the highest coverage level in exchange for higher premiums.
Most lenders require this coverage level at a minimum. Standard homeowners insurance policies protect your home, the items in your house, and protect you from lawsuits. They include dwelling coverage, personal property, and personal liability, but do not cover medical bills if someone else is hurt on your property.
A step down in terms of coverage and cost, HO-2 homeowners insurance probably won’t satisfy a lender’s requirements, but would be an option if you have no mortgage.
HO-2 covers the dwelling and other structures, but it includes no personal liability coverage, or medical payments. If someone slips on ice on your sidewalk and sues you, you’re on your own.
Often called “named peril” insurance, the policy only covers specifically named threats. Typically, these include:
- Fire, lightning, windstorms, and hail
- Explosions and smoke damage
- Damage from accidental discharge or overflow of water or stream
- Damage caused by ice, snow, sleet, and/or freezing
- A volcanic eruption
- Riots and civil commotion
- Vandalism to your property
- Vehicles — but only if third parties are at fault
- Damage caused by an airplane
- Theft, usually limited to only $1,000
- Falling objects
- Damage from artificially generated electrical current
This policy only covers you for worst-case scenarios, which is why lenders require higher coverage levels to protect their collateral (your house).
When purchasing homeowners insurance, you’ll always have the option to add coverage or riders. Additional coverage boosts payouts or the protection in certain clauses in your main policy. Riders also expand your policy’s coverage, giving you a little “extra.”
Common riders that you can tack on your homeowners insurance policy include:
- Identity theft protection: To help with the cost of replacing documents and pay for monthly credit reporting to monitor ongoing issues
- Personal property protection: Additional protection and payouts for jewelry, electronics, and other valuable items
- Sewer back-up: If your sump pump or septic tank fails, this rider pays for the damage and clean-up
Umbrella policies, also called “excess liability” coverage, add extra liability protection above that of a standard policy. They kick in after you hit the maximum coverage of your primary policy. Homeowners with a pool or trampoline should absolutely consider adding an umbrella policy.
Standard homeowners insurance also doesn’t cover earthquakes and floods. Even though quake insurance is expensive, because it’s a risk in his area, Brandt does advise clients to get it. He points out that “Most of them don’t have the financial stability to replace the house if it’s significantly damaged.”
If you live in an area prone to these, or other natural disasters, you will probably need to purchase additional riders.
Should you use an agent or get your insurance DIY?
Once you have an idea of your coverage needs, you can either do the research yourself to find an insurer or talk to an insurance agent about available policies.
Perks of using an agent
To save time, you might want to use an agent. You don’t have to pay an insurance agent for their help — they’re paid a commission from the insurer — so they won’t add to your homebuying costs. Their in-depth knowledge of your local market and insurance options saves you the hassle of searching online, reading reviews, and contacting insurers for quotes yourself. They can also tell you if bundling your house and car insurance policies is an option, in addition to finding you other ways to save on premiums.
An insurance agent can help you figure out more quickly which companies will cover the address you’re considering buying — not all companies operate in every state and city. If your new home has any special considerations (such as a pool or trampoline) that impact your coverage needs, they’ll know your best and cheapest option. And they’ll take the guesswork out of choosing a deductible and calculating your home’s replacement cost.
After you’ve made an offer on a house, give the agent the details on what kind of policy you want and ask for coverage options and quotes.
Perks of going DIY
Going do-it-yourself is easier than ever before now that you can research and apply online for insurance. Insurance agents contract with companies to sell their products, so you might have more options, including new online-only insurers like Lemonade. Without restrictions on carriers, you might have a greater ability to specialize your search.
Review a home’s history
Lastly, when you’re house-hunting, don’t forget to look at the home’s past claims history. Brandt tells the story of a time when he and a partner were going to buy a home that looked like a great deal. But then homeowners insurance quotes came in at $1,000 a month, even though it’s usually around $1,200 a year in his area. The reason? Past claims history against the property.
“Without doing the research,” he says, “we would have been stuck.” He advises always having your agent review a specific piece of property to make sure its insurance costs are in line with the area.
While selecting a policy isn’t as much fun as choosing new paint for the living room, it’s a crucial part of the homebuying process.
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