Ten Things to Look For in a Home Insurance Policy

There are many different coverage options available in a home insurance policy. Which ones do you really need, and which ones can you go without? Let Memorial Insurance guide you through the small print!

Really Need

  1. Enough Coverage: As a rule of thumb, it will cost at least $100 per square foot to rebuild your home. So, if your home is 2,000 square feet, you will need an absolute minimum of $200,000 in coverage. If your home is custom built, or uses higher-than-average-quality materials, the replacement cost will be higher.
  2. Replacement Cost: If the worst should happen, you want the insurance company to pay the full amount that it costs to rebuild your home and replace everything inside it. So the policy needs to state Replacement Cost, for the dwelling and the roof. This also applies to your Personal Property (coverage C) – otherwise you’ll get only Actual Cash Value for your belongings, which will be a lot less than the items will cost to replace.
  3. High Liability Coverage Limits: The difference in premium between $25,000 and $300,000 in liability coverage is just a handful of dollars per year, so you should go for the highest available amount to make sure you are well protected if you are found legally responsible for someone else’s medical bills or lawyer’s fees.
  4. Low Deductibles: The deductible is the amount of money you pay out of pocket before the insurance takes care of the rest. In a natural disaster-prone area such as Houston, insurance claims due to weather events are common, so it makes sense to have low deductibles. Standard in this area for good policies is a 2% deductible for wind, hail, and hurricane, and 1% for all other perils. 1%/1% is also available in many areas away from the coast.
  5. Water Coverages: These include water backup, slow seepage, and foundation coverage, and are included as standard on an HOB policy form but have to be added (“endorsed”) to other kinds of policies. They are generally inexpensive to add, but give you protection against very expensive potential losses.

Go Without

  1. “Actual Cash Value”: Some insurance carriers (including several very well known household names) depreciate your roof. In other words, you’ll receive less from the insurance company than the amount it will cost to replace your roof, and the potential payout shrinks every year as your roof ages. If your roof is 10 years old and you have an Actual Cash Value policy, you’ll receive next to nothing for your roof claim – or even nothing at all, after your deductible is taken into account. Also see above for what Actual Cash Value means for your personal property.
  2. Personal Injury Coverage: This sounds great until you realize that it does NOT mean physical injury to a person. “Personal Injury” is coverage for slander, libel, and other lawsuits that most homeowners will be very unlikely to face. In other words, with this one you’re paying extra for something you don’t need. Tricky agents love to add this to a policy because it sounds like it offers a lot of coverage.
  3. Extended Replacement Cost: If your home is insured for $200,000, and you have 25% extended replacement cost coverage, this does not mean you will receive $250,000 from the insurance if your home burns to the ground. Extended replacement cost only applies if an entire area is affected (for example by a major hurricane) and the ensuing demand drives up the cost of labor and building materials, so your home costs more to rebuild at that particular time than it normally would. Adding extended replacement cost is a devious way that agents “add coverage” without actually giving you the correct protection. If your home is going to cost $250,000 to replace, opt instead for that full amount of coverage under the “dwelling A” section of your policy.
  4. Identity Theft: This is one of a number of optional endorsements available on a home insurance policy. If you want this kind of coverage, it is best to buy a specific policy and not mix it in with the homeowners insurance. Otherwise, you might find you are having to make an identity theft claim under your home insurance which can potentially increase your premium on renewal.
  5. Wind/Hail/Hurricane Exclusion: If you live in a coastal area (Galveston, Brazoria, and some parts of Harris) and you receive a home insurance quote that looks too good to be true, then it probably is! Some companies won’t insure your home in these areas unless windstorm coverage is excluded, due to the high risk of hurricanes. So while you’ll be covered for fire, lightning, vandalism and malicious mischief, you’ll be getting zilch from your insurance if the next Category 4 takes your roof with it. Thankfully, Memorial Insurance has many options for coastal homes, including specialist companies that do include wind in high risk areas, as well as standalone windstorm policy options.

If you have any questions, give your agent at Memorial Insurance a call and we’d be happy to explain further!

Coming Soon: Flood Endorsement!

We had some exciting news from one of our most innovative insurance carriers this week. Starting this spring, a Flood Endorsement will be available for all home insurance policies with XYZ Insurance (not the carrier’s real name because this product is still confidential).

What does this mean? Well, instead of purchasing a separate flood policy through the NFIP, homeowners will be able to add flood coverage to their home insurance.

Remember the old days when you had to purchase separate home insurance and wind insurance policies? Nowadays, most carriers combine these coverages in the same policy, even in coastal areas. Continuing this trend towards value and simplicity, the same thing is going to happen with flood!

XYZ Insurance is set to be the first company to “go live” with this endorsement, but it seems likely that other companies will follow suit because it makes so much sense for consumers.

XYZ Insurance’s new Flood Endorsement will offer:

  • Choice of flood coverage levels up to the limits of the home insurance policy (in other words, not limited to $250,000).
  • Full Replacement Cost coverage, including for your personal property.
  • Loss of Use coverage (for hotel stays and living expenses while your home is flooded).
  • Claims handled by XYZ Insurance adjusters (not FEMA).
  • Premiums likely to be lower than NFIP policies (in Preferred zones, probably around $150-$300 per year depending on coverage level).

So, when will this coverage be available to you? Watch this space for updates, or contact your agent at Memorial Insurance for more information!

6 Things to Look For in Home Insurance Mailers

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!:

  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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!