While many people would prefer a visit to the dentist than dealing with shopping for homeowners or renters insurance, spending time to find the best home insurance may both save you money and provide better coverage in case of a fire, tornado, or if a visitor slips and falls on your driveway.
So how do you find the best homeowners or renter insurance? Here are eight steps to obtaining a great policy.
Step 1: Think About Your Life
Your insurance policy is more than just a piece of paper that sits in your filing cabinet. It’s the foundation on which you may need to completely start over again and rebuild your life.
A major fire or weather event can severely damage or even destroy your home and property. Take the time to think about all your assets, right them down, and figure out how much property you actually own.
According to a Credit Suisse Global Wealth report in 2014, the average, middle class American’s net worth tops at $301,000 but your assets may be more or less depending on the value of your home and belongings.
Step 2: Research Insurance Companies
Not all insurance companies are created equal. Like any business, some have excellent customer service, claims, and knowledgeable and helpful agents. Others may not.
Go online and read reviews. Compare major insurance carriers to regional ones, which may be able to service you better. Understand what their customers say about them and if they will be there for you if a tragedy occurs. If their customers say they had to jump through hoops to file and receive a claim, or the company indiscriminately raises rates year after year, you should decide if they’re right for you or if you should run away.
Also look at their financials and make sure they have good ratings. There are a variety of companies, like A.M. Best, that periodically provide ratings on the financial health of an insurance company.
Step 3: Start with your current policy (if you have one)
When shopping for the best homeowners or renters policy, start with what you have already and build from there. Does your current policy have enough protection? What are you being charged now? Does the coverage still reflect your assets? What discounts was I given in this policy?
As you begin comparing prices, your current homeowners or renters policy will give you a baseline to understand if you’re getting a good deal or not.
Step 4: Think credits and discounts
You may qualify for a number of discounts or home insurance credits depending on where you live. Do you live in a gated community or have a home with a security system? Does your community have great fire and police protection? Where you live matters in terms of savings.
If your house is new or your wiring was just redone, you may qualify for a new wiring credit. Does your roof have impact-resistant roofing materials? Some types of materials can equal savings.
Some insurers may also give you a claims-free credit of up to 20 percent for not having a claim within the past decade. Other credits can include living in a neighborhood homeowners association, a new home or renovation credit, and some companies may give you a credit if your household consists of non-smokers.
Renters discounts are a little more challenging as the cost of renters insurance is already typically quite low, but there are a few ways to reduce costs. Lowering your limits and increasing your deductible is always an option (as long as your property is covered and you can afford a deductible). Other options include improving your credit scores and of course comparing rates from other companies.
Step 5: Embrace bundling
You can save money by bundling your auto and other types of insurance with your homeowners or renters. In most cases, insurance companies want ALL of your business and will offer you incentives to do so.
Step 6: Start shopping
Now that your armed with your assets list, potential discounts, bundling opportunities and have researched the best homeowners insurance companies, it’s time for the rubber to meet the road. If you’ve developed a list of your preferred home insurance carriers you may want to call them directly to start obtaining quotes. There are also a number of independent agents, including InsuraMatch, which can shop multiple carriers at once to compare prices.
Ask a lot of questions about coverage. You’ll also want to answer the agent’s questions honestly or you could find yourself without coverage if something goes wrong. For instance, if you say your pet is a lovable Labrador Retriever but the canine is actually a ferocious breed, your new company will probably deny coverage if your dog injures someone.
Get a free home or renters insurance quote by calling InsuraMatch agents at (844) 232-2700.
You may also choose to make some lifestyle changes to improve coverage or be covered by the insurance company of your choice. You may find it’s in your best interest to toss that trampoline than to find a company that will insure you in case someone gets hurt while jumping on it.
Step 7: Give your policy a good read through
Assuming you’ve found the right company, it’s time to double check the policy before you sign. An insurance policy is a legal contract so take the time to read it. Understand what’s included and what’s excluded. If you have any questions, contact the agent again and make him or her explain it until you fully understand what it means. If they are patient and helpful with you, it may be a sign that they have excellent customer service.
Remember, you are under no obligation to sign up with an insurance company.
Step 8: Seal the deal
Once you have found the best home insurance carrier, you will need to finalize (or bind) the policy with them. Most companies allow you to pay up front (which may be an extra discount for you), pay monthly, and even pay by credit cards.
After you become a customer, you will most likely need to report the new company information to your mortgage bank to update your information and prove you have coverage. Many insurance companies will notify your mortgaging company for you.
Finally, keep that policy handy and compare it every year. Make a backup copy and store it elsewhere, or on a cloud server like Dropbox, so you can access it in case you need to make a claim.
Additional Sources Used in This Story:
- America's Middle Class: Poorer Than You Think Bankrate.com
- 10 Hidden Home Insurance Credits Bankrate.com