What to Look for in a Homeowners Insurance Policy
Insuring your home and its contents can be a prudent step toward controlling your financial future
Insuring your home and its contents can be a prudent step toward controlling your financial future. While no one expects a catastrophe, disaster can strike. It could be a fire, roof leak, hailstorm, flood, break-in or some other mishap caused by nature or by another individual. Being protected makes sense.
If you are a renter, your insurance should cover your belongings and provide some liability coverage for injuries to others in your home. If you own your home, your protection should also cover the costs of repairing or replacing your home if needed.
Components of a homeowners policy
Homeowners insurance typically covers the cost of rebuilding or repairing your home and can include other structures (garage, shed, etc.) if the home is destroyed or damaged. It also usually covers the contents of your home in the event of damage or theft. It can also protect you against liability for injuries to other people or damage to their property.
The structure. You should have enough insurance to cover the cost of rebuilding your home if it is completely destroyed. Even though you may know how much your home cost, remember that price included the land it is sitting on, but your policy does not include the cost of the land. You may want to get an estimate of actual replacement costs for the structure. Your mortgage lender or an insurance agent can probably give you an estimated per-square-foot replacement cost. Do the math and make sure you have at least that much insurance. Also, it makes sense to review that cost every few years, since construction costs may rise.
Contents of your home. Most homeowners policies include coverage for the personal property in your home. This can include furniture, clothing, some electronic devices and even food in the freezer. The key is to know what you have. Prepare an inventory of everything in your home. While this can seem like a big task, it may be invaluable if you have a claim. At a minimum, take pictures or video of your belongings. Most people have a very difficult time remembering what they have. Keep a copy of this inventory in a safe place away from your home, perhaps in a safe deposit box*.
Also, be sure your insurance policy covers the cost of replacing your personal property. Some policies offer coverage for "actual cash value" of your belongings. That is calculated by subtracting depreciation from the original cost. The stove you bought for $900 six years ago may have an actual cash value of only $400, and a new one may cost $1200. Some insurance companies let you pick your replacement costs for an additional premium.
If you have especially valuable items, such as jewelry or art works, you may want to consider a special rider to your policy to cover those items. Discuss this with your insurance agent and read the policy carefully. Be sure to understand how computers, stereos and other electronic items are handled.
Liability coverage. Homeowners policies typically include liability protection that covers damage to other people inside and outside your home. If a visitor trips and breaks a leg by falling over an electrical cord running across your family room, your policy should cover the visitor's expenses. Your policy may also cover damages caused away from your home. If someone falls after tripping over your grocery cart at the store, you may be found liable and the policy should cover you.
Many homeowners policies include a standard amount of liability coverage of $100,000 or $250,000. Examine your policy. With the high level of jury awards being given out in today's litigious society, you may want to buy an additional umbrella policy to provide additional protection. These "umbrella" policies are usually inexpensive and can provide coverage up to $1 million or more. Discuss this with an insurance agent.
Deductibles. The deductible is the amount of loss you are responsible for before the policy starts to pay. In general, the lower the deductible, the higher the insurance premium. Be sure to look at the options in your policy. Many individuals use insurance purely as protection against major catastrophes and choose high deductibles to save on insurance. High deductibles also save the hassle of making a claim. Consider what level of loss you can accept and choose your deductible accordingly.
*Nevada State Bank offers a variety of safe deposit boxes, with annual rent ranging from $25.00 to $315.00, depending on the box size. Subject to availability. Other fees may apply. See your local branch for more information.
The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice. Any views expressed in this article may not necessarily be those of Nevada State Bank, a division of ZB, N.A. Member FDIC