Insurance carriers take hundreds of factors into consideration when calculating premiums. Here are the six things that make the biggest difference to your home insurance rate:
The location of your home: Texas is prone to hurricanes, and past events have shown insurers that homes close to the coast or to large bodies of water are more likely to incur losses. Consequently, these homes are more expensive to insure against weather-related perils. Some inland areas – particularly around Dallas/Fort Worth – regularly get devastating hailstorms, which have intensified in recent years, and have subsequently caused big premium increases in those areas. There are also less obvious factors at play, meaning that some zip codes are consistently more expensive for insurance than others, which is related to past losses in an area and the complicated algorithms that insurance companies use to determine risk.
The age of your home: The days of sturdy, stone-and-brick homesteads built to last hundreds of years are long gone. These days, the chance of something going wrong with your home starts to rise rapidly after about 10 years of age. Roofs become less weather-resistant and need replacing, plumbing and other internal systems are more likely to malfunction, and nearby trees grow larger and become more likely to topple onto your house. The equation is simple: older home = higher chance of a claim = more expensive insurance!
The age of your roof: Today’s shingle roofs are designed to last about 15-20 years. Insurance companies know this, and will therefore charge a higher premium for older roofs, offer an Actual Cash Value policy only, or even refuse to insure your home at all. Tile or metal roofs have longer lives, but the flip side for insurance companies is that they cost more to replace if destroyed by a hurricane.
Type of plumbing: Homes built before 1985 that have not been completely updated may still retain all or some of their original galvanized pipes. Statistically, these kinds of pipes are far more likely to corrode and develop leaks than modern PVC piping. If your home still has galvanized plumbing, you will have a smaller choice of insurance carriers, and premiums will be more expensive.
Your “insurance score”: Whenever you get a quote, insurance carriers run an “insurance score” on one or both applicants. This is a bit like a credit check and takes lots of factors into account, but it does not affect your credit score in the same way that a loan application does. If your insurance score is low, you could be paying more for the exact same policy than someone who has a high insurance score.
Prior claims: While there is some leniency towards weather claims (after all, a hurricane is not your fault!), insurance companies are wary of homeowners who have multiple claims on their record for things like water damage, theft, and – especially – liability. Any zero-paid-out claims (where the amount of the claim costs less than your deductible) can also hike your premium at renewal. So it’s best to make absolutely sure BEFORE you file a claim that it’s going to be worthwhile to do so – your agent will be able to advise you.
The golden rule is – as always – to give your agent a call! Memorial Insurance Agency’s licensed agents will be happy to provide you with a quote, help you to decide whether to file a claim, and answer any questions that you may have about insurance.
When it comes to insurance, there are many common pitfalls for the unwary. Let’s examine one of these today: Actual Cash Value vs. Replacement Cost.
Actual Cash Value: In this case, if you have a claim, your insurance company will pay you the amount of your claim minus depreciation. Imagine that you have a 25-year composition roof on your home which you installed 10 years ago at a cost of $10,000. If your roof is destroyed and needs replacing, how much will you get from your insurance company? The short answer is: not enough! Your roof’s expected lifespan is 25 years, meaning it depreciates in value 4% each year, to end with a theoretical value of zero after 25 years. In this example, your 10 year old roof has therefore lost 40% of its value by the time the hurricane hits, meaning the maximum available payout under an ACV policy is $6,000. But your financial pain doesn’t end there – you also have to take into account your deductible. So if your home is insured for $200,000 and you have a 2% wind/hail deductible, you will be paying $4,000 out of pocket before your insurance company pays even one cent. Keeping up? Therefore the total payout you’ll get from the insurance company will be the $6,000 Actual Cash Value of your roof, minus your $4,000 deductible, making a grand total of $2,000 ……. just a fraction of what you will have to pay to replace your roof.
Replacement Cost: This is a much better option. Your insurance company will pay whatever it takes to REPLACE your roof to the same standard as the one that was destroyed. There is no depreciation – all you pay out of pocket is your deductible. So in this case, you would receive a lot more money from the insurance company.
Moral of the story? Now you can see why Memorial Insurance always offers Replacement Cost policies, and low deductibles! Whichever insurance agent you use, always make sure the magic words Replacement Cost are on your homeowners insurance policy! Replacement Cost is not limited to the structure of the house itself – it can apply to personal property too, usually as an optional endorsement for a small extra cost. Reputable agents should always offer Replacement Cost – for both the dwelling and the contents – as standard, but beware unscrupulous agents who may try and sell you an ACV policy to save a little premium. It’s just not worth it!
Ever had something like this through the mail? Most likely you receive several of them every year in the lead-up to your home insurance renewal. They may sound tempting …. but how do you know if it’s a good quote? What should you be looking for? Let Memorial Insurance be your guide!:
Coverage amounts: Do these match your current policy? They are often lower, because less coverage means a cheaper price. Your agent has several tools available to work out exactly how much your home should be insured for.
Bells and Whistles: On this quote, $1,000,000 in personal liability is eye-catching, especially if your current policy offers “only” $300,000 or $500,000. But if you have an umbrella policy (which you should!), you’ll already have the high liability coverage anyway. And if you want to add higher liability to a homeowners policy, it’s only going to cost a few bucks a year. So this feature is not nearly as impressive as it sounds!
Extended Replacement Cost: Some agents offer relatively low dwelling coverage amounts, but add the extended replacement cost endorsement and tell you it’s additional coverage for your home. This is not true. Extended replacement cost applies when a large area is afflicted by a catastrophe (for example a Category 4 hurricane), and the subsequent increased demand for materials and contractors pushes repair costs sky-high. This endorsement allows for extra coverage but ONLY in the event that replacement cost increases in your area as a direct result of a natural disaster. If faulty wiring causes your house to burn to the ground, you’ll get only your basic Dwelling Coverage amount from your insurance company.
Deductibles: This quote headlines with the 1% deductible, but notice the cheeky 5% deductible in the middle? This part is the deductible for a named hurricane. If you keep in mind that named hurricanes are one of the leading causes of insurance claims in many states, including Texas, do you really want to be on the hook for a 5% deductible the next time a major weather event blows through? In the case of this particular policy, you’d be looking at a $30,000+ out of pocket payment before the insurance company stepped in to take care of the rest. If this is something you can afford and would be happy to pay for, then stop reading here! In Houston, a 2% hurricane deductible is standard, with 1% also available in some areas. At Memorial Insurance, we’d be happy to provide several quotes with different deductibles so you can make an informed choice and NOT get a nasty surprise after the next hurricane.
Total Premium: The advertised rate on this quote is NOT the final price, it is a guess based on you having the best possible credit and zero prior claims. To get the final rate, insurance carriers run an “insurance score” taking into account the above plus many other factors. More than nine times out of ten, when you call the agent to take the quote, your premium will increase.
Exclusions: Sure, this quote tells you that your contents are insured for replacement cost. But how about the roof? See my earlier blog post for details of why you do NOT want an Actual Cash Value (ACV) policy. Moreover, are water coverages (slow seepage, water backup, foundation water damage) included? Most likely not, because these increase the premium, which would make for a less impressive mailout!
Moral of the story: if you’re interested in a quote you receive in the mail, make sure you get an “apples to apples” comparison with your current policy to make sure all the coverage levels match. Better still, why not give Memorial Insurance a call – we have most of the main home insurance carriers in our agency, so we will do the shopping and comparing for you, and make 100% sure you are correctly insured!