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Homeowners Insurance Information
Your home is more than just a roof over your head.
Chances are it’s your most valuable investment, and one you likely can’t afford to replace if disaster strikes.
Why you need homeowners insurance
Buying homeowners insurance isn’t required by law, but if you have a mortgage, your lender will likely require you to insure the home so it can protect its investment.
Even if you don’t have a mortgage, homeowners insurance is almost always a wise purchase that can safeguard your finances in a variety of ways.
Here are the main functions of home insurance:
- Repair your home, yard and other structures: If your home were leveled by a severe storm or burned to the ground, could you afford to rebuild out of pocket? Homeowners insurance helps cover reconstruction to restore your place and property to its former glory.
- Repair or replace personal belongings: Many policies cover your belongings not only inside the home, but also on the go. So whether your furniture is destroyed in a fire or your wedding ring goes missing from a hotel nightstand, your coverage can help repair or replace them.
- Cover personal liability issues: If a guest trips and falls on your walkway and sues you, your dog bites a visitor, or you accidentally hurt someone away from home, homeowners insurance can help cover others’ injuries and your legal costs.
Basic parts of a homeowners insurance policy
A homeowners policy is made up of several distinct coverage — some that are included automatically and others that you can choose to add.
- Dwelling protection: Covers damage to the home and attached structures, such as a garage.
- Other structures protection: Covers stand-alone structures on your property, such as a fence, carport or tool shed.
- Additional living expenses coverage: Also called “loss of use,” this helps pay for temporary relocation and basic living expenses such as meals if a covered loss forces you to vacate your home during repairs.
- Personal property coverage: Pays to repair or replace belongings that are stolen or damaged in a covered loss — everything from your furniture to your curtains to your dishes.
- Liability coverage: Pays out if you’re found responsible for others’ injuries on your property or away from home.
- Medical payments coverage: Covers injury treatment costs for guests who get hurt on your property, or individuals you or your family members accidentally injure while away from home. This coverage kicks in regardless of who’s at fault.
Common optional coverage
- Water backup coverage: Covers damage caused by a burst pipe or other issues related to your abode’s plumbing. Note that this coverage does not cover flash floods, only water that comes from the ground up. Depending on the insurer, this coverage may be included automatically.
- Enhanced dwelling protection: Most insurers offer extra coverage for your house’s structure. In case your original coverage limits aren’t enough or there is a spike in the cost of construction, having enhanced dwelling coverage helps ensure you don’t have to dip into your savings to rebuild your home.
- Identity theft expense coverage: Helps reimburse you for expenses you incur while recovering from identity theft. Depending on the insurer, this coverage may also include help from an identity theft adviser, who can deal with creditors and bill collectors and possibly restore your credit.
- Scheduled personal property endorsement: Covers high-end items that exceed your regular personal property limits, such as jewelry or fine art.
Replacement cost vs. actual cash value
When deciding how much homeowners insurance to buy, you’ll need to choose between replacement cost or actual cash value.
- Replacement cost coverage — the more expensive option — does not factor in depreciation when reimbursing you for stolen or damaged personal items. It pays to replace your belongings with new, similar items, up to your coverage limit.
- Actual cash value, on the other hand, bases claims payments on the depreciated value of your belongings. In other words, you get back the amount your valuables were worth at the time of the loss. Actual cash value is cheaper but offers less coverage.
Homeowners insurance includes a deductible for property damage, which is the amount that’s deducted from claims payments. Instead of selecting a deductible for every type of claim, you can choose an all-peril deductible that applies to several incidents, whether it’s a stolen laptop or a burst pipe.
Each time you receive a claims check, your insurer subtracts your deductible amount. For instance, if you have a $1,000 deductible and file a claim for roof repairs to the tune of $10,000, your insurer would issue a payment of $9,000 and you would be responsible for the remaining $1,000.
Depending on the insurer, you may have a separate deductible for claims involving wind and hail. Liability claims generally don’t have a deductible.
How high should you set your deductible?
The typical home insurance deductible is between $500 and $1,000. Choosing a higher amount will usually reduce your premium. However, you’d have to shoulder more of the financial burden if an incident occurs. Going lower with your deductible, on the other hand, means you might have a higher premium but your insurer would pick up nearly the whole tab after an incident.
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