How to Choose Homeowners Insurance (And Lower Your Rate)

Homeowner’s insurance isn’t just a “nice-to-have.” In fact, for most lenders, it’s a required investment. Why? Because it doesn’t just protect your new home and the possessions inside. It protects the lender’s investment.

If you’re in the market for a new policy, we’ve got a few tips to help you find the right provider.

To start, let’s talk about what “homeowners insurance” really is. There are a lot of ways to cover your home purchase, including homeowners insurance, mortgage insurance, and a home warranty. They’re all different things. Mortgage insurance protects the lender in case you default on your loan, and a home warranty is a separate piece of coverage that protects your home’s internal systems (HVAC, plumbing, appliances, etc.).

Homeowners insurance, however, is a policy that pays for damage to or the destruction of your actual property, the things inside your home, and the people around it. Generally speaking, lenders will require proof that you have homeowners insurance before you reach the closing table.

That said, homeowners insurance policies aren’t magic “cover-all” options. While they do cover many things, there are several things they won’t cover. We’re here to help you figure out how to choose the right homeowners insurance policy, and we’ll even throw in a few tips on how to save some cash along the way.

Homeowners insurance is a policy that pays for damage to or the destruction of your actual property, the things inside your home, and the people around it.

“What should my policy cover?”

At the very least, your homeowners insurance policy should cover the “full or fair value” of the home, or the purchase price. Some providers choose one amount, others opt for the latter. Either way, that’s what we call your “dwelling coverage,” or the part of your policy that covers the repairs to or reconstruction of a home that’s been physically damaged by a covered event. Note: “hazard” and “peril” are two other terms you’ll see through your search, but they both mean similar things.

Homeowners insurance policies cover damage or destruction to a home’s interior and exterior, but they also cover theft, personal liability (in case someone gets hurt on your property or worse), and personal property. We recommend getting dwelling coverage that covers the cost to rebuild your home, including labor and materials at their current rates—not just the purchase price or previous assessed value.

Just so you know, there are some things a homeowners insurance policy will not cover. Natural disasters, or “acts of God,” typically aren’t covered by your standard policy. Lightning strikes your home, for example, and zaps your dated breaker panel without additional coverage, and you may have to pay for that fix out of pocket. In some cases, for people living in areas prone to floods, earthquakes, and tornadoes, policies may be expanded at an additional cost.

“How is my rate determined?”

There are many things that go into your rate calculation, much of which is done behind the scenes. Usually, policy rates are determined by your “assessed risk,” which considers your personal claim history, your credit record, the home’s previous claims (if there are any), the home itself (construction, materials, security, etc.), and the surrounding neighborhood (including crime rates). 

“How can I lower my rate?”

Some of the factors that go into your rate calculation are admittedly out of your control. For example, you found your dream home, but it’s in a flood zone. In that case, there’s not much you can do about that other than pay for flood coverage. 

However, there are several other ways you can lower your insurance premium.

Shop around

At the very least, as with anything, you should look at three different policy quotes from three different providers. Some sources say you should gather as many as five quotes, but if you’re seeing similar numbers for equal coverage across the board, go with your gut. Remember: don’t just choose the least-expensive option. Consider other things like company reviews, technology capabilities (can you file a claim from your phone?), and whether or not you’re already a customer with that provider.

Pro-tip: Depending on how many quotes you get, try to call one or two local providers. Sometimes smaller providers can provide better pricing.

Bundle up

Speaking of already being a customer…did you know that many providers offer discounts for bundling your coverage? If you have auto insurance with one company, you may be eligible for a multi-policy discount if you get homeowners insurance with them as well.

Security systems

Investing in a home security system can also help lower your premium, because it tells providers that your home has an added layer of protection beyond locked doors and windows. Security goes beyond cameras, too—upgrading your smoke detectors could bring benefits as well.

Home improvements

Some companies may offer additional discounts for upgrades to your home, like metal construction instead of wood (due to flammability), modern or eco-friendly HVAC and electrical upgrades, and an impact-resistant roof to help protect against Mother Nature.

Increased deductible

While less popular, another way to lower your premium is to increase your deductible. Unfortunately, that means you’d pay more out of pocket if and when you file a claim. It removes risk on the provider’s part, forcing you to carry the expense instead. Note: some lenders may have a maximum to the deductible they allow, such as 5% of the insurance coverage. 

How do I choose a provider?

That’s the easy part: research! You’ve already started the journey by reading this blog, so take everything you’ve learned here with you when you start calling around to different providers. When you’re ready to apply for a mortgage, we’ll be waiting for you.

Homeowners insurance isn’t just a “nice-to-have.” In fact, for most lenders, it’s a required investment.

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